FIFA has ignored European opposition to its plan to revamp the Club World Cup by voting to approve a new 24-team tournament starting in June 2021, The Guardian reports.
The move to scrap the current seven-team tournament, which takes place every winter but is largely ignored by European fans, and replace it with a larger, more lucrative contest every fourth summer, would appear to set FIFA on collision course with Europe’s elite.
The European Club Association (ECA), which represents 232 of the continent’s leading sides, Europe’s governing body Uefa and the world players’ union, FIFPro, are all unhappy with what they claim is a lack of consultation in regard to the congested global calendar and Gianni Infantino’s financial plans for the new tournament.
Describing himself as a “very happy man”, the FIFA president, Infantino, announced the decision after a meeting of the ruling council in Miami on Friday. Infantino wants Europe to provide eight of the 24 teams, with six coming from South America, three each from Africa, Asia and the Concacaf region and one from Oceania. It has been suggested that each club could earn £50m for taking part.
In a letter that was leaked on Friday, the ECA’s executive board, including board members at Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United and Real Madrid, said they would not take part in any new competition until 2024 at the earliest. The ECA could even consider suing FIFA if it ignores its 2015 deal on the international match calendar.
Infantino admitted there have been “differences of opinion” since he first floated the idea last year and referred to “constructive dialogue” with Europe that he hoped to build on.
“The world will now see a real Club World Cup, where fans will see the best teams in the world compete to be crowned the real world champions,” he added. “We hope that all the best teams will participate and we’ve had some very positive discussions with Uefa.”
Infantino added that club football was “evolving at a different pace in different parts of the world” and it was FIFA’s duty to put on an “exciting, prestigious and inclusive competition, and we’ll have that with this Club World Cup, starting in 2021”.
The ECA, in its letter, strongly criticised Infantino for failing to reveal more details about who is providing the financial backing for the new competition and ignoring its concerns about the impact on players.
Infantino dismissed the idea that FIFA was increasing the strain on players, saying the new Club World Cup will replace two unloved competitions: the current annual edition and the Confederations Cup.
“We are the only organisation reducing the number of tournaments and games. This will not have a neutral impact on the calendar. It will be positive,” he said. “Five games in four years. I don’t think anyone can say that is a large additional burden.”
No venue has been mentioned for the inaugural tournament but it is scheduled to take the slot currently reserved for the Confederations Cup in 2021.