KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- FIFA is to ignore European opposition and push ahead with an expanded Club World Cup in 2021.

Gianni Infantino, president of the world football federation, said after a council meeting in Miami that UEFA’s representatives had been out-voted on his pet project to launch a 24-team competition in June and July every four years. This would replace both the unloved current seven-team club tournament every December as well as the four-yearly Confederations Cup World Cup warm-up.

Decisions on whether to expand the 2022 World Cup finals from 32 to 48 teams and involve some of host Qatar’s neighbours in the staging were, as expected, kicked down the road to a further council meeting and congress in Paris in June.

Infantino in Miami - the world as his football

Of the controversial global nations league there was never a mention.

The headline issue, instead, was the decision to launch a new-style world club tournament which has set FIFA against UEFA.

Earlier this week the European Club Association issued a furious missive rejecting the FIFA expansion plan. The letter to Infantino was signed by the 15 ECA board member clubs including Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

Boycott threat

The ECA, which represents 232 clubs who compete regularly in European competition, objected that any idea of revising the Club World Cup in the near future flew “in the face the existing competitions and the international match calendar fixed until 2024.” None of Europe’s top clubs would  “participate in such a competition.”

Clearly, if European clubs boycott the tournament then it will be dead in the water. However Infantino is staking his own credibility on a belief that an accommodation can be reached – presumably financial, though he did not concede as much.

Taking a positive stance, Infantino said: “From 2021 we will have a new real, not only revamped, Club World Cup which will certainly have a fantastic impact on club football worldwide. I’m extremely happy that the council has taken this decision with a new Club World Cup in the slot of the Confederations Cup.

“This is important today because club football is evolving at a different pace in different parts of the world and it is our duty to make sure that we encourage professional club football all over the world. What better way than by having a real club football championship, not like the one we have now?

“We want to have exciting competition, a prestigious competition, an inclusive competition and we will have it with the new Club World Cup.

“This decision has been taken after a lot of consultation, discussions, different opinions and different views. There have been some very positive discussions lately with the UEFA president [Aleksander Ceferin]. I’m sure that in the next few weeks the discussions with UEFA will bear some positive fruit.”

Only later did Infantino mention the full extent of the European opposition, saying: “There was a vote and UEFA didn’t agree.”

Complex situation

It is rare for a FIFA president to push ahead with a vote when council has been unable to reach a consensus. Clearly all the other confederations are fully supportive of something which has been in his mind ever since even before his election three years ago.

Infantino, a former general secretary of the European federation, added: “I understand the situation of UEFA with all the stakeholders – the leagues, small clubs, big clubs, and the players’ union. It’s much more complicated than in other parts of the world but we took up the dialogue again.

“We are not waging war against each other so I am confident that with UEFA and all the clubs we can have a good future.”

On other issues, council decided that VAR will be used at the Women’s World Cup in France in June and that Brazil will replace Peru as host of the FIFA U-17 World Cup later this year.

FIFA Council statement