FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
• Infantino may be questioned over his relationship with Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman
FIFA is set to revive controversial plans for a new Club World Cup and Nations League, that had previously been backed by Saudi Arabian cash.It comes after Saudi Arabia admitted journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Reports suggest the Club World Cup would be held annually and involve the top European and Premier League teams.Uefa is against the plans, which will be raised when Fifa’s ruling council meets in Rwanda tomorrow and Friday.Earlier this year, a consortium lead by Japan’s SoftBank, and backed by Saudi cash, wanted to invest $25bn over 12 years in the two competitions.
It’s unclear if the new proposals have the same financial backing.Opposition to the plans from Fifa Council members – including Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin – resulted in talks being suspended shortly before the start of the World Cup in June.
The revised format for the Club World Cup was outlined in May and would see the contest held every four years. It’s believed 12 top European teams would be among the global participants. Manchester United and Liverpool are thought to be amongst the sides that Fifa wants to see take part in the inaugural competition in 2021.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino is likely to face questions at the meeting over his relationship with Saudi’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, in light of the country’s recent admission over Khashoggi.Infantino has met senior Saudi officials four times in the past year – including one trip to open the Saudi Football Association’s new website.
It is arguable that the Club World Cup does need re-evaluating. The tournament is currently played every December and features the winner of each of the six continental confederations.While it is taken seriously by South American clubs, interest levels in Europe are minimal.
But Infantino’s plan for a 24-team tournament – either played annually or every four years and replacing the Confederations Cup – will be seen as a direct threat to the pre-eminent position of the Uefa Champions League.
Uefa strongly resisted the plan earlier this year and will do so again this week.A global Nations League – similar to Uefa’s new format – is also controversial given Fifa’s plan for outside investment.A showdown in Rwanda is looming with the future direction of elite club and international football on the line.