FIFA's cash reserves soared to a record $2.74 billion and revenue climbed to $6.4bn in the four-year period covering the 2018 World Cup.
The financial results suggest FIFA has weathered the deepest crisis in its history, which erupted in 2015 when a United States-led criminal investigation led to the arrests and later convictions of high-ranking officials on corruption charges. FIFA president Sepp Blatter was also deposed in a financial misconduct case that left the governing body's reputation in tatters and caused a backlash from sponsors.
After being elected as Blatter's successor in 2016, Gianni Infantino said that "FIFA was clinically dead as an organisation." Although Infantino's leadership has come under criticism from within European governing body UEFA, Infantino will be able to show the budget is in a healthy state, and he is due to be re-elected unopposed in June for a four-year term.
The 2015-18 finances obtained by the AP exceed the forecasts presented to the FIFA Congress last June. While FIFA projected cash reserves to increase to $1.653bn in the 2018 World Cup cycle, they had grown to $2.74bn at the end of 2018, according to people with knowledge of the finances. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the financial results remain confidential.
News of the soaring FIFA reserves comes amid ongoing questions about the lack of parity for World Cup prize money between the men's and women's tournaments.
France earned $38 million from FIFA for winning the men's World Cup last July but the women's champion this July will earn $4m. That is double the amount collected by the U.S. Soccer Federation in 2015, a rise in line with the overall prize money jumping to $30m. The fund for the World Cup in Russia rose 12 percent to $400m and that jumps to $440m for the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
FIFA has acknowledged concerns of female players about the financial disparities while pointing to funding to grow the women's game.
"The vast majority of women's football players across the world are still amateur," Sarai Bareman, FIFA's chief women's football officer, said when the prize money for France was agreed last year. "That's the most important thing for us. If we want to build the whole ecosystem of the women's game it has to start there."
Infantino is costing FIFA less than his predecessor. Last year, he earned a salary of $1.9m and a bonus of $550,000, according to one of the people with knowledge of the finances.