Fifa Club World Cup showdown: Uefa to block Gianni Infantino’s US$25 billion shakeup, Nations League plans

  • President’s proposal backed by money from SoftBank, China and Saudi Arabia
  • Plans shelved before World Cup but back on the agenda at Rwanda meeting
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2018, 8:56pm

Fifa will revive controversial plans for an expanded Club World Cup and a new international tournament when its ruling council meets in Kigali, Rwanda, on Friday.

The new competitions were raised in April by Fifa president Gianni Infantino and outlined to Fifa members in a letter in May.

Key to the joint venture is an offer of US$25 billion from a consortium including Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and investors from China, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The presence of Saudi Arabian backing has made headlines in Western media outlets, adding further controversy to the radical reforms.

Infantino’s plans threaten to rip Fifa apart, with Uefa members opposed to the reforms.

The 60-day deadline from the consortium had to be extended to ensure the World Cup would go ahead smoothly and the plans were not on the agenda at Fifa’s congress in Moscow on the eve of the tournament.

Outgoing Premier League boss Richard Scudamore called the Club World Cup “a competition too far” but Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin pulled no punches in a May speech to EU sports ministers in Brussels, accusing his predecessor Infantino of selling the soul of football.

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“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,” he said.

“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.’’

The proposed reforms would see a 24-team Club World Cup, with half of the teams from Europe, in a move that could present a direct threat to the power of the Uefa Champions League.

The current Club World Cup format features seven teams with the next edition set to take place in the UAE in December. The tournament brings in US$27 million in revenue each year.

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The other competition would be a Nations League, an international tournament staged every two years, modelled off the format Uefa has just introduced.

Fifa would retain a 51 per cent share of the joint venture.

Infantino has courted support from the confederations outside of Europe with the expansion of the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams from the 2026 edition.

Fifa has been working with London-based firm Centricus to bring on backers for these new competitions.

Investment at the summer’s World Cup included a large number of Chinese firms such as Wanda Group alongside Hisense and Mengniu.

During the World Cup, Infantino met with Alibaba owner Jack Ma to discuss the prospect of hosting the Club World Cup in China next year. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

It is understood Friday’s meeting will not include a vote on the formats of the tournament but Infantino may seek approval of the move to introduce them.