A UEFA council has rejected Gianni Infantino’s plans to revamp Club World Cup and launch a global Nations League in 2021. The decision by the Europe’s Professional Football Strategy Council is a big blow to the FIFA president’s ambitious plans, which had been rejected emphatically.
The council comprises of European football’s governing body UEFA, its leading clubs and top leagues. The meeting that declined to buy Infantino’s idea took place in Lyon on Monday.
In a statement, the council said: “UEFA, ECA and European Leagues were adamant that the current proposals are unacceptable as they stand. They were of the unequivocal view that any decision on potential new competitions can only be made as part of an agreed framework for the international match calendar post-2024.
“Furthermore, all related sporting and commercial matters must be fully disclosed and discussed amongst professional football stakeholders beforehand.”
World players’ union FIFPro, who had a representation in the council, declined to “publicly comment” on the proposed new competitions.
Infantino first floated his idea at a FIFA Council meeting last March when he asked global football’s leaders for their quick approval to close a deal to sell 49 per cent stakes in the two tournaments.
The former UEFA general secretary would not reveal the identity of his buyer but said it would be worth $25billion over 12 years from 2021.
It is widely reported that Japanese technology fund SoftBank is at the heart of the plan, which means there is significant money from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates involved.
Infantino’s lack of detail alarmed the European representatives on the FIFA Council at the time and the 48-year-old Swiss-Italian made a tactical retreat by agreeing not to discuss it again until after last summer’s World Cup.
But he did not admit defeat and was back again with a range of potential formats for his money-spinning events at a FIFA Council in Kigali in October. Again, Europe refused to back the idea, with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin making his personal opposition to the plan very clear.
Ceferin has since restated that view at the Euro 2020 draw in Dublin in December and at last week’s UEFA Congress in Rome, where Infantino was in the audience to hear it for himself.
The final word on the matter is meant to come at the next FIFA Council meeting in Miami next month but Infantino’s defeat looks inevitable.
His expanded Club World Cup will not work without the approval of European football’s biggest clubs and UEFA opposition to his Nations League idea would appear to be fatal to that, too.
This means Infantino, who will be re-elected as FIFA president unopposed in June, must go back to the drawing board if he is to boost FIFA’s revenues so it can match the financial might of UEFA.