FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks with reporters in Doha, Qatar, Friday Dec. 20, 2019. (Photo: AP)
FIFA President Gianni Infantino is assessing nine offers from companies seeking to buy the commercial and broadcasting rights for a new club competition he hopes will become the most lucrative in world football, usurping Europe’s Champions League.
The deadline passed Thursday for investors to submit tenders for the rebooted Club World Cup, which is due to begin in June 2021 with a 24-team group stage.
“The Club World Cup will become the best club competition in the world — whatever FIFA is doing has to be the best,” Infantino said Friday. “We shouldn’t be worried or ashamed about the commercial success. I want the Club World Cup to be the best in terms of quality on the pitch, but also in terms of revenues.”
FIFA’s ambitions to become more heavily involved in club football, beyond its usual main remit of organizing national team competitions, poses a challenge to the Champions League run by UEFA, where Infantino was general secretary before being elected to run the global game in 2016.
“The Champions League is generating money from all over the world ... and the money goes where? To Europe,” Infantino said. “Obviously, it’s the mission of UEFA. The mission of FIFA is the world. If we can pay and we can generate more revenues for the clubs, the big clubs, the 10, 12 Europeans or 15, or however many, it will be 20 in future but also 30 around the world, then we’ve done something good.”
By floating the prospect of 30 teams, Infantino is envisaging expansion of the Club World Cup in the future beyond the new format initially approved by the FIFA Council in March.
The penultimate edition of the annual seven-team version of the Club World Cup is being held in Qatar, with Champions League winner Liverpool playing South American champion Flamengo in Saturday’s final.
Liverpool is due to be among the eight European teams featuring in 2021 in the 24-team group-stage, which will follow a proposed playoff between the champions of China and Oceania.
“If part of what we generate can be reinvested around the world, then I think we’ve done some good,” Infantino said in Doha.
In a tender document to potential investors seen by The Associated Press, FIFA said it is “building the tournament into the world’s greatest club football experience.” Companies were offered the chance to submit their own suggestions, which FIFA said could include “alternative tournament parameters” around “frequency, format, qualification process and team participation”
Infantino frames FIFA’s desire to become more involved in the game club as a desire to redress the imbalance where a few European teams, like Liverpool, are a magnet for fans globally.
“If you want to develop football in the world and that’s certainly the task FIFA has to have, then we need to have the ambition and the objective to have 50 clubs around the world,” Infantino said. “This doesn’t mean 50 clubs playing in Club World Cup ... 50 clubs which people around the world can identify themselves with.
“And we have to think about what kind of platforms and competitions we can give them. The new Club World Cup is certainly one that goes in that direction.”
Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid, is reported to have floated the idea with Infantino of creating two world leagues, each with 20 teams.
“I’m speaking to everyone about many things,” Infantino said. “It’s important to listen as well to everyone.”
The Spaniard went to Zurich to see Infantino last month in his capacity as the head of the newly-created World Football Club Association — a rival body to the European Club Association that is closely aligned with UEFA.
Aleksander Ceferin, the president of UEFA, has attacked Perez’s “selfish and egotistical scheme,” saying “it would clearly ruin football.”
Infantino also signaled an end to FIFA’s opposition to cross-border leagues.
“We need to be open to discussions. The Belgians and the Dutch have been discussing creating a Benelux league and these discussions have been going on for 20 years and we are always saying no, because we are based on national leagues,” Infantino said. “But maybe it helps? Maybe it is the only way out, maybe in Europe they have to think about this, maybe in Africa. I was proposing something like this for Africa. I think we have the duty to study these things, then we will see where it goes.”