FIFA eyes ‘strict compliance’ for virus relief plan

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) — FIFA’s $1.5 billion coronavirus relief plan to revive the sport and help national associations stay afloat will come with “strict compliance and audit requirements,” the governing body of soccer said Wednesday.

The massive spending plan aims to help men’s and women’s professional soccer as well as youth and grassroots football through grants and loans.

“This relief plan is a great example of football’s solidarity and commitment in such unprecedented times,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said.

The regulations establish appropriate use of funds and loan repayment conditions under the supervision of a newly created steering committee.

FIFA’s 211 member associations will receive a $1 million grant “to protect and restart football” and can access interest-free loans of up to $5 million. Each member association will also receive an additional $500,000 grant for women’s soccer.

Each of the six soccer confederations will also receive a grant of $2 million and have access to a loan of up to $4 million.

FIFA expects to make all of the funds available by January 2021. Some funds will be released this month.

The loans for member associations are limited to 35% of their audited annual revenues.

FIFA said in a statement that associations “will be able to use the funds for activities such as the restart of competitions, the implementation of return-to-play protocols, the participation of national teams in competitions, the hiring and re-hiring of staff, the maintenance of football infrastructure, and general administration and operating costs.”

Applicants must file reports proving their pandemic-related losses or needs and must specify how they plan to use the funds.

For women’s grants, associations must commit “to including the development of a women’s football strategy or the inclusion of a women’s football strategy with relevant details in its strategic plan.”

“Each member association that applies for the Women’s Football Grant has to subsequently provide FIFA with a report on the use of the Women’s Football Grant and the delivery on respective commitments signed and agreed with FIFA,” the regulations state.

The $1.5 billion total breaks down as $885 million in grants and loans, and it includes $617 million approved earlier this year in liquidity injections and additional support to member associations.

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