KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — A FIFA decision on a $25 billion overhaul of competitions was expected to be delayed again on Friday after opposition from European soccer leaders and clubs intensified.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino had hoped to secure an agreement from his council on the concept of revamping the Club World Cup and establishing a Global Nations League.
Instead, a taskforce is set to be created to explore in more detail the merits of the new formats, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations ahead of the council meeting were private.
By backing down in the face of UEFA opposition, Infantino was likely to avoid the prospect of European representatives carrying out a threat to walk out of the meeting when the new competitions were discussed.
Infantino has been trying to gain approval from the FIFA Council since March to accept an offer from a global financial consortium, including Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, to make the biggest change to soccer competitions in years.
“I really think we have to think out of the box to think about new models to preserve football and the relevance of football and the structure of football,” Infantino said in an interview with The Associated Press and New York Times on Thursday.
UEFA sees a potential annual Club World Cup that is expanded from the current seven-team format as a threat to the Champions League. There are also concerns in Europe about the increased demands on players, the lack of consultation by FIFA and, within leagues, the potential for the big clubs to get even richer.
In briefing documents for the meeting, FIFA assured council members that government-issued funds won’t be allowed to be part of any joint-venture consortium involved in the new tournaments.
“There were several discussions with several other potential investors, not state funds or anything similar but private global companies,” Infantino said. “We will see what, if anything will be decided on Friday, and then if something will be decided we will see what kind of offers we can get after that.”
Two options for a new Club World Cup from 2021 were floated to council members.
The first would see a tournament staged every four years over a maximum of 18 days in the June slot currently used by the Confederations Cup, which serves as the warm-up event a year before the World Cup. FIFA earlier this year proposed 24 teams but is now leaving that competition field open.
The second proposal would keep an annual Club World Cup but shift it from December to the July-August window currently used by European teams for often-lucrative preseason friendlies in the United States and Asia.
The Nations League was first conceived by UEFA when Infantino was general secretary of European soccer’s governing body before being elected president of FIFA in 2016. It debuted in Europe last month. Infantino wants the format to involve all six confederations with eight-team finals serving as mini World Cups in every odd-numbered year.
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