FIFA President Gianni Infantino has discarded plans to seek approval for a $25-billion overhaul of competitions before the World Cup amid resistance from UEFA, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Faced with a deadline from a consortium of global investors, Infantino wanted the go-ahead from his FIFA Council by now to push ahead with plans for an expanded Club World Cup and the Nations League, a mini-World Cup every two years.
While the proposals were backed by leading clubs, including Barcelona and Real Madrid, there has been opposition from UEFA, which expressed ”serious reservations” about the rush to a decision on the biggest revamp of football competitions this century.
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The lack of consensus prevented Infantino from calling an extraordinary council meeting to meet a 60-day deadline from a consortium of global investors who are willing to underwrite a guaranteed $25 billion in income from the new competitions.
FIFA has secured an extension from the consortium to continue negotiations with football stakeholders to overcome initial hostility, the person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the private negotiations.
Infantino has to give notice of at least 14 days to convene a meeting of the FIFA Council, which means an additional gathering to advance the competition plans could happen in Russia during the June 14-July 15 World Cup.
While Infantino has convinced some teams to back his plans in public, the umbrella European Club Association has called for the workload on players to be reduced rather than increased.
Skepticism around Infantino’s plans for the Club World Cup and Nations League center on the sparse information provided to football leaders about the financial offer from a Japanese-led, Saudi-backed consortium.
The World Leagues Forum, which includes the leaders of the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga, is also concerned about the prize money from the enlarged Club World Cup disrupting the competitive balance in domestic leagues.
A 24-team Club World Cup would be worth at least $3 billion for each edition, played in June-July every fourth year from 2021 through 2033. Half the slots would be taken by European clubs, ensuring the competition could challenge the status of the UEFA-run Champions League.
The Nations League plan was originally conceived as a European competition by UEFA, where Infantino was general secretary before succeeding Sepp Blatter at FIFA in 2016. A global version was devised last year by the new UEFA leadership and subsequently adopted by FIFA to attract investors.
In a two-year competition, worth $2 billion per edition, each continent would play qualifying games in tiers with promotion and relegation. Group winners would advance to eight-team intercontinental finals in each of eight tiers.
The top-tier finals tournament would look like a mini-World Cup played in October every second year.
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