FIFA Planning to Launch Expanded Club World Cup
On Tuesday, FIFA president Gianni Infantino formally submitted a plan to revamp the Club World Cup. Infantino wants the Club World Cup, which features the best clubs in the Premier League and all over Europe, to be played annually and expand from 6 teams to 24. UEFA, the governing body of soccer in Europe, has reportedly been consistently against the idea, but the FIFA council will look over the proposal at a meeting later this week in Rwanda. UEFA believes that holding the Club World Cup every year would diminish the existing UEFA Champions League.
This isn’t exactly a new idea. FIFA floated the idea of holding the Club World Cup every year earlier this year, and UEFA was quick to come out against it. When Infantino initially broached the idea several months ago he claimed to have a number of investors, though said investors were unidentified. Infantino says the investors were ready to pay about $12 billion for 4 tournaments to be hosted starting in 2021.
Softbank, a massive Japanese telecoms company, was reportedly involved as an investor. FIFA has denied reports that a large chunk of the investment is coming out of Saudi Arabia despite a number of reports to the contrary.
However, Infantino has held meetings with the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 4 times in the last year alone. FIFA teaming up with the Saudis would be incredibly controversial, especially in light of the recent Saudi-involved murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in early October.
Infantino, who plans to run for reelection as FIFA president in 2019, has previously promised FIFA’s national member associations that FIFA will spend over $4 billion on soccer developmental projects around the world by 2026. Infantino says that much of that funding will come from the new version of the Club World Cup in addition to the Nations League. Investors are set to pay $13 billion over the course of 12 years for the Nations League, which brings the total windfall from the 2 tournaments to about $25 billion.
Real Madrid, Barcelona and some Premier League clubs came out of a FIFA presentation regarding the idea in support. It’s probably worth mentioning that each participating club was promised an average of over $100 million for participation, so it’s no real surprise that some clubs are supportive.
Infantino wanted the matter resolved quickly, but the tremendous pushback from UEFA and other federations forced FIFA to temporarily scrap it. No vote was held on the proposal, and FIFA promised to look further into it.
Later in the week, 36 council members from 6 FIFA federations will meet to discuss the new proposal. Reports say that the new proposal for the revamped Club World Cup and Nations League include an option for a club tournament with an increased number of teams (16 to 24) that will take place every 4 years instead of the Confederations Cup. The Confederations Cup is a small tournament held every 4 years in the country (or countries) that will host the World Cup the following year.
As many as 12 European teams may participate in the new version of the Club World Cup if it passes through a FIFA vote. Manchester United and Liverpool are believed to be among the teams FIAF wants to see participate in the inaugural tournament in 2021.
The Club World Cup currently takes place every December, pitting the winners of the 6 continental confederations around the world against each other. Teams in lesser confederations take the tournament seriously, but most sides from Europe field weakened teams as they do not take it particularly seriously.
The other option is the aforementioned idea to hold the Club World Cup every year. One of the options states that the Club World Cup will be held every year between July and August, while the other option is to hold the event at another time during the season.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said during a speech back in May, “I cannot accept that some people who are blinded by the pursuit of profit are considering to sell the soul of football tournaments to nebulous private funds. Money does not rule – and the European sports model must be respected. Football is not for sale. I will not let anyone sacrifice its structures on the altar of a highly cynical and ruthless mercantilism.”
UEFA says its position on the matter has remained unchanged since Ceferin’s speech in May. UEFA’s 9 members set to participate in the meetings of the FIFA council in Rwanda are expected to voice their opposition to the idea.
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