ZURICH: FIFA suggested on Friday that it will open up a bidding process to find financial backers for two new proposed international tournaments in an apparent change to president Gianni Infantino’s strategy.
Infantino has proposed the creation of a new 24-team Club World Cup, held every four years, and a global version of UEFA’s Nations League. He wants the tournaments to start in 2021.
The FIFA President said his plans, first put forward at a FIFA meeting in Bogota a year ago, were based on an offer from an investment consortium willing to put in US$25 billion over a 12-year cycle in return for 49% ownership of the competitions.
However, FIFA suggested on Friday that other bids would also be invited once it had decided on the competition format, although it denied it had rejected the original bid outright.
“FIFA has not refused any offer as there is no agreed competition format yet,” the global soccer body said in an emailed statement to Reuters. “When a new competition format is agreed, FIFA will see what the market has to offer.”
Infantino’s plans had run into opposition from European clubs and leagues as well as UEFA who said they needed more details about the investors.
Last week, UEFA described FIFA’s plans as “unacceptable as they stand” and demanded that “all related sporting and commercial matters must be fully disclosed and discussed” among stakeholders.
Infantino has said that he is not able to reveal the identity of the backers due to a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) but several unconfirmed media reports say that Japan’s SoftBank is behind the consortium. Other unconfirmed reports suggested that Saudi Arabian funds might be part of the package.
FIFA has set up a task force to look at the technical details for the new competitions, such as format, length and dates. It is due to present a report at the FIFA Council meeting in Miami on March 14 and 15.
Previously, FIFA had suggested that its preferred format for a Club World Cup would feature the 24 teams divided into eight groups of three with the group winners progressing to a knockout contest.
Twelve of the 24 teams would be from Europe, including the Champions League winners from the most recent four seasons.
For the Nations League, it had proposed an eight-team tournament held every two years in a single venue — in effect, a mini World Cup.
These plans would require changes to the international calendar which co-ordinates fixtures around the globe, allocating dates for international matches and tournaments to avoid clashes with domestic competitions.
However, UEFA and the European clubs have rejected any changes to the current calendar which runs until 2024.