COVID weighs heavily on FIFA schedule


FIFA Club World Cup to be delayed Image: AFC

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has acknowledged the fact that COVID-19’s disastrous impact on the global football calendar is set to result in a delay for this year’s FIFA Club World Cup™ in Qatar.

The FIFA Club World Cup™ is an international men’s association football competition organised by FIFA, the sport’s global governing body.

Speaking at the FIFA congress recently, Infantino said world football’s governing body is examining how to accommodate the 2020 Club World Cup, which was due to take place in December.

Stated Infantino, “We are discussing and monitoring. We are seeing if it can be hosted in Qatar maybe at the beginning of the year (2021).”

The status of continental club competitions means a rescheduling is unavoidable, with German Bundesliga team Bayern Munich currently the only qualified club, having won last season’s Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League in August.

The UEFA Champions League is UEFA’s elite club competition with top clubs across the continent playing for the right to be crowned European champions. The tournament, then called the European Cup, began in 1955-56 with 16 sides taking part.

South America’s Copa Libertadores (highest level of competition in South American club football) also resumed recently after a six-month shutdown due to the coronavirus scourge, and is not expected to conclude until January 2021. Same is the case with the Asian Champions League which also resumed recently, and is set to conclude in December.

The Asian Champions League is an annual continental club football competition organized by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

With COVID-19 playing havoc with the sporting calendar, in March, FIFA agreed to delay the inaugural staging of its revamped Club World Cup in China to accommodate the new dates for the European Championship and Copa América national team tournaments.

The moves were signed off at a meeting of the ruling Council of world football’s governing body via conference call. FIFA endorsed the new dates of the South American Football Confederation’s (CONMEBOL) Copa América, which was due to have been co-hosted by Argentina and Colombia from June 12th to July 12th , and the UEFA European Championship, which had been scheduled across a dozen different European Cities on the same dates.

The two sporting spectacles have now been acquiesced-in for June 11th to July 11th next year, with FIFA stating it will decide “at a later stage” when to schedule the new Club World Cup, which was due to take place in China in June-July 2021.

In October 2019, FIFA confirmed that China would become the first host of a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021, stating that the revamped format would have a “major impact” financially.

Financial bloodbath

The FIFA Congress also gave green light to the FIFA Annual Report 2019, the detailed budget for 2021 and the revised budget for the 2019-2022 four-year financial cycles.

FIFA stated in August that it was projecting a $120m (€101.7m) drop in expected revenues in the period through to the 2022 World Cup, all a result of COVID-19 which has left the sports venue sector financially bruised and bleeding.

In a revised four-year budget, covering 2019 to 2022, the governing body said cost management efforts and upgrades to its administration would offset by $60m – a total $200m reduction in expected revenues in the period.

Expected revenues will therefore drop from $6.56 bn to $6.44 bn. Expectations for profit in the period have not changed and remain at $100m.

FIFA said the revenue impact from the COVID-19 business downturn would be limited by the fact that the majority of its commercial rights for the period have already been sold. However, it added, “the economic downturn and the changes to the international match calendar will affect FIFA’s revenue recognition for the full cycle, in particular 2020 and 2021.”

The key revenue hit in this period comes from the postponement of the new Club World Cup in 2021. FIFA said its revenue projection would be revised upwards when the Club World Cup was rescheduled. In 2020, FIFA is expecting a loss of $800m, against revenue of $250m.

FIFA has projected broadcast rights revenues of $3.3 bn during the 2019-22 cycle, representing 51 percent of all revenues. Sponsorship rights are budgeted to raise $1.77 bn, ahead of licensing rights ($603m) and hospitality rights and ticket sales ($508m).

Within the revised budget, FIFA states that 94 percent of the broadcast rights revenue has already been contracted for the cycle, while 72 percent of the budgeted sponsorship rights revenues have been secured.

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