FIFA lost nearly £300m in 2016 and is scheduled to lose nearly £400m this year.
However, football’s world governing body is still confident of its usual financial recovery in a World Cup year and expects to finish 2018 with an £80m profit for the four years since 2014.
The newly-released financial update follows a loss of nearly £100m in 2015, and while previous four-year cycles have followed the same pattern of three years of losses before a bumper final year, FIFA has been forced to admit its scandal-related legal costs and several poor investments have hit the bottom line.
With world football’s governing body still under criminal investigations in Switzerland and the United States, FIFA paid out nearly £50m to lawyers last year.
And former president Sepp Blatter’s investments in a football museum and hotel in Zurich have proved to be duds so far, too, with FIFA’s 2016 financial report referring to them as “ill-considered”.
But none of this will matter that much if Russia 2018 delivers in the same way previous World Cups have, and FIFA’s auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers seems relatively relaxed that the financial projections stack up.
FIFA believes it will make almost £900m in 2018, when the vast majority of its broadcasting and commercial contracts pay off, and that will result in the overall profit for the cycle and tank up the organisation’s cash reserves to a staggering £1.3bn.
This is despite president Gianni Infantino’s campaign promise to dish out £1m a year to each member association for development projects – triple the amount shared in the latter years of Blatter’s regime.
In a press release detailing the financial performance, Infantino said: “2016 was the turning point when the first and vital steps to restore trust in the organisation were taken. This includes employing a responsible and transparent way of managing revenue and expenditure.
“We are building a solid framework to ensure thorough oversight and proper accountability, and placing football at the heart of everything that our organisation does: after all, we need to ensure that every bit of revenue is well invested in the game.”
Infantino, however, knows that FIFA cannot afford any further scandals as that not only increases the legal bills – and may lead to big fines – but it will also put off sponsors who already appear to be a little more coy than in then past.
FIFA still has several slots available for sponsors for Russia 2018, although it did announce its second big Chinese backer on Thursday when electronics firm Hisense joined property giant Wanda as an official partner.