FIFA President Gianni Infantino has confirmed the decision of FIFA to launch the controversial 32-team FIFA Club World Cup and other significant changes to FIFA tournaments.
Gianni Infantino confirmed that the world football’s organizing body is set to launch the tournament in 2025 as planned.
Speaking in a press conference in Doha, Qatar, in the ongoing FIFA World Cup, Gianni Infantino dropped bombshell, indirectly attacking the West and belligerently insisting FIFA will go ahead with the planned 32-team Club World Cup tournament.
Earlier reports claimed that the European Clubs Association (ECA) was opposing the planned 32-team Men’s FIFA Club World Cup tournament.
The ECA, in a meeting with Gianni Infantino to renew clubs and FIFA’s memorandum of understanding on the release of players for international friendlies and tournaments, rejected the move by Gianni Infantino to canvass for the support of the ECA for the tournament.
Gianni Infantino refused to sign the memorandum of understanding which expires on 31st December this year. His decision not to sign the MOU was linked to ECA’s refusal to endorse the 32-team World Cup tournament.
Despite the mounting opposition to the proposal by European clubs, Gianni Infantino has braved the odds to announce the planned launch of the tournament.
At his Doha conference in Qatar, he said: ‘It will be a Club World Cup of 32 teams every four years, and the first edition will be summer of 2025. They will be the best teams in the world invited to participate.’
Infantino did not offer any further details about the rebooted Club World Cup other than claiming it will feature eight more teams than the 24-team version that was canceled in 2021.
Meanwhile, European clubs are already concerned that the newly proposed tournament will increase pressure on players and domestic league competitions.
Leading clubs and leagues have already started complaining about the scheduling, international calendar, and players burnout which they want to be addressed before signing up for the new competition.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters outlined his opposition to radical changes to the international calendar last year, a view shared by top clubs throughout Europe.
‘The Premier League is committed to preventing any radical changes to the calendar that would adversely affect player welfare and threaten the competitiveness, calendar, structures, and traditions of domestic football,’ Masters said.
‘This process should also involve meaningful agreements with the leagues that provide the foundations for the game.’
Infantino’s bold move in announcing a new competition before reaching an agreement with the clubs is a well-worn tactic, which he also deployed in relation to the women’s game by saying a Club World Cup would also begin in 2025.
FIFA have made similar announcements before in each of the last three years without disclosing any details or addressing the issue that such a competition would be dominated by European clubs.
Apart from the concerns of tight schedules and fixtures, there are also concerns that the newly proposed tournament is a muted version of the scrapped European Super League, where elite clubs and their owners will get richer at the expense of smaller clubs and prove unsustainable in the long run.
The current model of the FIFA Club World Cup features only seven clubs who are champions of their respective continental club competitions.
The revised FIFA Club World Cup will be an expanded Club World Cup, hosted every four years in place of the current competition, which takes place yearly and is less popular with football fans across the globe.
Also opposing the FIFA’s 32-team Club World Cup is UEFA, who are concerned about the likelihood of having a tournament that will rival the dominance of the UEFA Champions League.
However, there are projections that FIFA’s plan to offer prize money of £150million can be a potential bait for the UEFA and the ECA, prompting them to change their perspective on the tournament.
Meanwhile, negotiations between FIFA, UEFA, and the ECA have been going on in the middle of the World Cup in Qatar.
In his Doha Conference, Gianni Infantino added that the “2022 World Cup is the best World Cup ever.”
He also announced significant changes and innovations in FIFA tournaments, including a ‘FIFA World Series’ concept which is created with friendly tournaments between four teams from different continents in the March international windows in even years.
Gianni Infantino further announced that the hosts for the men’s World Cup in 2030 will be decided in 2024, and the women’s World Cup for 2031 will be decided in 2025.
Infantino also confirmed his intention to stay on as president until 2031 by seeking a third full term after the next March election. His first full term of 4-years will end early 2024.
A quirk of FIFA’s statutes means the first three years of Infantino’s presidency – when he completed an unfinished term started by Blatter – does not count against the 12-year limit agreed to in reforms passed during a prolonged corruption crisis before his first election.
Despite all the controversy surrounding the World Cup in Qatar, Infantino revealed that FIFA had achieved revenues of $7.5billion (£6.2bn) for this four-year cycle which is $1bn (£820m) more than the previous – despite the impact of the pandemic.