Gianni Infantino: “Our first priority, our principle, the one we will use for our competitions and encourage everyone to follow is that health comes first.” (Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports)
In a press released on Friday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino outlined his three immediate priorities for his organization to support soccer during and beyond the coronavirus (COVID-19) in a video message addressed to the 211 FIFA member associations and shared with members of the FIFA Council.
Here is the press release:
Infantino reiterated, in order of priority, that health comes first, that FIFA was ready to pro-actively help soccer through these exceptional circumstances, and that an ongoing consultation process is taking place to consider the future evolution of the sport.
“Our first priority, our principle, the one we will use for our competitions and encourage everyone to follow is that health comes first,” he said in a statement. “I cannot stress this enough. No match, no competition, no league is worth risking a single human life. Everyone in the world should have this very clear in their mind. It would be more than irresponsible to force competitions to resume if things are not 100% safe. If we have to wait a little longer we must do so. It’s better to wait a little bit longer than to take any risks.”
Infantino singled out the member associations’ pro-active involvement in using the sport to pass important health messaging and sharing in their respective communities at this difficult time. “This is what football and teamwork is all about,” he said, “and we have to continue like this”.
“(For) the emergency relief fund… thanks to the work that we have been doing together in FIFA during the past four years, we are today in a very strong financial situation,” he said. “FIFA enjoys a good reputation on the financial markets… This has helped us consolidate a solid foundation with large reserves. But our reserves are not FIFA’s money. It is football’s money. So when football is in need, we must think what we can do to help… It is our responsibility and our duty.”
Infantino said that a consultation process is already underway to assess the financial impact across football in order to prepare the right response based around a fund with an independent governance structure. “You have to know that we will be there and we will find solutions together,” he said. “You will never be alone… [and] the world will know where the money goes and, equally important, why the money goes there.“
But in order to alleviate immediate financial problems, Infantino said, subject to relevant committee approval, the second part of member association operational costs from the FIFA Forward Programme due later this year be paid in advance. Infantino added that given the exceptional circumstances, he has requested that the requirement for the fulfilment of the additional criteria be waived for both 2019 and 2020 in order for the full amount to be paid to all member associations.
“If football manages to have a discussion where everyone contributes positively, and keeps in mind the global interest over the individual one, I am convinced our future can be better than our past, and we will be better prepared for the times ahead,” he said.