KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The Club World Cup is being resurrected by FIFA as the proposal for an expanded version disappears over the horizon into world football’s tomorrowland.

The seven-club format organised every December since 2005 – and mostly in Japan – was apparently due to reach the end of the road in February when the pandemic-delayed 2020 finals will be staged in Qatar. However FIFA needs to assert its right to maintain an involvement in the club game.

Gianni Infantino, president of the world governing body, had hoped to launch a 24-team extravaganza in China in the summer of next year. However the Covid-19 crisis put paid to that after national and international fixtures calendars were thrown into confusion.

Gianni Infantino . . . keeping a stake in the club game

The ‘old’ Club World Cup is considered a valuable rehearsal for the authorities in Qatar ahead of its winter World Cup hosting in 2022. But the December 2021 slot has already filled, by FIFA, with a recently-announced and one-off Arab Nations Tournament.

Rather than abandon the CWC concept altogether, FIFA’s governing council decided today to revive the seven-club tournament in Japan next December after confirmation that the country and JFA were ready to stage the event barely four months after the end of the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Infantino told an online media briefing: “We have decided to organise a Club World Cup in the current format in 2021 in December in Japan which has a long tradition of hosting Club World Cups.”

He insisted that the expanded version would see the light of day one day in China as promised but no date could be settled now and, furthermore, it was impossible to organise support funding for the event until the scheduling could be ascertained.

Infantino said: “This is a tournament that fans want and the clubs want but when it comes to the commercial side this is on hold because we need to be able to say when it will take place.”

He boasted that the expanded version would be unlike any other major club tournament in that “all the revenues will be invested in the game all over the world” rather than among “a very limited number of clubs or stakeholders or national associations.”

Infantino, as a former general secretary of UEFA which stages the vastly successful Champions League, knows that particular subject inside out.

FIFA statement:

The FIFA Council has passed landmark reforms to better protect female players and football coaches, and approved several additional measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting, which was held via videoconference, opened with the members observing a minute’s silence in honour of Diego Maradona, who died on 25 November.

Increased protection for female players and football coaches

The Council approved groundbreaking reforms to better protect female players and football coaches. The new rules, which are the result of extensive consultations with football stakeholders, will establish new global minimum standards for female players, particularly in relation to maternity. FIFA will also introduce specific provisions establishing minimum standards for employment conditions of coaches, recognising the crucial role they play in the game.

International match calendars

Following a comprehensive consultation process by the FIFA-Confederations COVID-19 Working Group with football stakeholders, the Council passed a series of additional amendments to the international match calendars, keeping a tailor-made and flexible approach for each confederation, reflecting the varied circumstances of the pandemic around the globe.

Men’s International Match Calendar

  • For Concacaf, to extend by an additional day the existing windows of September 2021, October 2021, January 2022 and March 2022 to facilitate the playing of three matches, in place of the existing two, in each of these windows.
  • For UEFA, to extend by an additional day the existing windows of March 2021 and September 2021 to facilitate the playing of three matches, in place of the existing two, in each of these windows.

Women’s International Match Calendar

  • For all confederations except UEFA, to move the blocked period of 31 October – 20 November 2022 for the final competitions of the confederations’ championships to 17 January – 20 February 2022.
  • For all confederations, to move the blocked period of 4 July – 7 August 2022 to 27 June – 31 July 2022.
  • For all confederations, to move the type I window, originally scheduled for 13-21 June 2022, by one week to 20-28 June 2022 in order to coincide with the earliest possible start of the release period for the subsequent blocked period for confederations’ final tournaments (27 June – 31 July).
  • For UEFA, to include the new dates for the UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 of 6-31 July 2022.

71st FIFA Congress

Acknowledging the significant challenges and unpredictability that remain as a consequence of the global pandemic, the Council decided that the 71st FIFA Congress, which was due to take place in May in Tokyo, will instead be held as an online event on 21 May 2021.

FIFA Club World Cup

Following the postponement of the revamped FIFA Club World Cup, initially planned to take place in 2021 in the slot previously reserved for the FIFA Confederations Cup, the Council decided that a Club World Cup, in the current format with seven teams, be organised for late 2021 and the hosting rights for this competition be awarded to Japan.

Transfer of minors

Acknowledging that the United Kingdom – one state with four separate FIFA member associations – will be leaving the European Union, the Council approved an amendment to the regulations to avoid situations in which minors would be unable to transfer within the same state. This amendment will apply generally to all situations where there are more than one association in the territory of a country and it will allow the transfer of players aged between 16 and 18 between those associations.

Players’ health first

The Council also heard a report from the FIFA Medical Committee, which met in October and established a working group to advise on the strategy to tackle concussion in football and the management of concussion through education, awareness and research.

Next meeting

The FIFA Council will meet again on 19 March 2021.