Offer to invest US$25 billion in new FIFA Club World Cup ‘discarded’

FIFA President Gianni Infantino hopes to expand the existing, annual seven-team Club World Cup starting in 2021. (AFP pic)

LAUSANNE: An offer to invest US$25 billion in an expanded Club World Cup – a project backed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino – has been rejected, various sources said on Thursday.

Infantino hopes to expand the existing, annual seven-team Club World Cup by turning it into a 24-club competition played every four years, starting in 2021.

He is expected to put forward concrete proposals for the competition at a FIFA Council meeting in Miami on March 14 and 15.

A group of investors, unnamed by world football’s governing body but from Asia and the Middle East according to different sources, had offered to invest US$25 billion in the new competition and a new global Nations League.

“The investors’ offer for the expanded Club World Cup has been discarded. If plans for a new, expanded Club World Cup are adopted in Miami in March, the competition will be commercialised in the traditional way, via a tender process,” a source close to the project told AFP.

Another source added that the investors could still come back in with a new offer then.

An announcement was made on Thursday at a “stakeholders committee” meeting in Zurich, which brought together representatives of different confederations, clubs, leagues and players.

It was presided over by Victor Montagliani, the Canadian president of CONCACAF, the Confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean. Infantino did not take part in the meeting.

Infantino initially unveiled the project last year and again at a FIFA Council meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali in October.

Then, he stepped back from adopting the competitions due to opposition from UEFA and the European governing body’s president, Aleksander Ceferin.

According to the New York Times, the group of investors in question included Japan’s SoftBank.

“FIFA seems to be learning from its errors,” one source said.

“It wants to show good faith and place the accent on a more even distribution of revenues from an expanded Club World Cup.”

The biggest issue emerging from a new competition could be the changes required to an already saturated international calendar.

The plans are set to be put to a vote at the FIFA Council meeting in Miami, although plans for a Nations League – similar to the competition recently launched with success by UEFA – are likely to be presented at a later date.

A proposal to expand the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams in time for the 2022 tournament in Qatar could also be put to a vote in Miami.