Manama, Bahrain, May 8 – FIFA president Gianni Infantino claimed Monday that the finances of football’s governing body were “extremely solid”, despite it posting a $369 million loss earlier this year.
Infantino was speaking at the Asian Football Confederation’s congress in Bahrain, a meeting which also saw one of the leading global advocates for reform, Australia’s Moya Dodd, lose her seat on the all-powerful FIFA Council.
Infantino said FIFA’s big losses were in line with its “business model”.
“In spite of what some have been trying to write or to say, FIFA’s finances are extremely solid,” Infantino told delegates in a short address.
He added that it was normal for FIFA to make losses for three years and then “make revenue” during the fourth financial year, when a World Cup takes place.
“That’s how the business model is conducted,” he continued.
“We don’t need to tell you other stories, we don’t need to make our figures artificial (or) look better by some accounting measures.”
FIFA has said previously that its losses could increase throughout this year, but rebound in 2018 to a profit of $1 billion, largely due to TV deals from the Russian World Cup.
Infantino was speaking a day after FIFA formally announced a partnership deal with Qatar Airways for the Gulf carrier to be its “official airline” for a host of major tournaments, including the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
– Dodd loses Council vote –
Dodd was defeated in the vote for the Council seat reserved for a woman delegate by the largely unknown Mahfuza Akhter Kiron, from Bangladesh, by 27 votes to 17.
Also elected — unopposed — were three men, China’s Zhang Jian, South Korea’s Chung Mong Gyu and the Philippines’ Mariano Araneta.
There were originally only two seats up for grabs, but a third became available after Kuwaiti powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, who is facing corruption allegations in the US, which he denies, stood down.
The original vote had been delayed since last September when the AFC abandoned their extraordinary congress in Goa after just 27 minutes.
That meeting was abruptly cancelled after Saoud al-Mohannadi, the Qatar Football Association vice-president, was stopped at the last minute from standing for election.
Mohannadi subsequently overturned a year’s ban from football but too late for him to apply to stand for the council again.
Elsewhere in Manama on Monday, the Confederation of African Football elected Egypt’s Hani Abo Rida to the Council, at an extraordinary general assembly.
Meanwhile, AFC president, Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, hinted that a ban on Iraq hosting football matches could be lifted this week, ahead of the annual FIFA congress, which takes place in Bahrain on May 11.
That congress could produce fireworks.
A row over the issue of Israeli clubs in the West Bank sparked to life again Monday when Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub claimed Israel was placing FIFA under pressure of which there was “no precedent in the history of football”.
He was responding to media reports that Netanyahu had personally telephoned Infantino and urged the FIFA boss to stop congress debating possible sanctions against six Israeli clubs from West Bank settlements.
The Palestine Football Association argues that the presence of the clubs on its territory is in breach of FIFA statutes, while Israel claims those rules are unenforceable as there is no permanent border.