By Andrew Warshaw
March 13 – European members of FIFA’s all-powerful 37-strong ruling Council look set to express their continued opposition to Gianni Infantino’s $25 billion plan to change the landscape of global competitions when the body meets in Miami on Friday for arguably its most crucial summit since it replaced FIFA’s scandal-tarnished executive committee.
The future of the Club World Club and expansion plans for the 2022 Qatar World Cup take centre stage at a meeting that will be followed by a hugely anticipated press conference to be given by Infantino who for months has been pushing for his proposals to be approved but who has faced a barrage of criticism from the UEFA hierarchy.
Last week, general secretaries of UEFA’s entire 55-strong membership were invited to Turkey for a strategy meeting and sources have confirmed that discussions included Europe’s position at tomorrow’s FIFA summit.
Two of UEFA’s members on the FIFA panel, its president Aleksander Ceferin and Germany’s Reinhard Grindel, have been at the forefront of expressing how uncomfortable European football feels about the nature of Infantino’s consultation process, in particular who is stumping up the $25 billion to turn the hitherto seven-nation Club World Cup into an all-singing, all-dancing 24-team competition and enlarge the Nations League.
Infantino wants the revamped Club World Cup to replace the Confederations Cup and take place for the first time before the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
“Yes, that’s the way it will come about, we want to say goodbye to the Club World Cup (in its current format) and we will make that decision,” Fernando Sarney, Brazil’s member of the FIFA Council, told German broadcaster ZDF.
But European FIFA Council members remain highly sceptical about how the plan can fit into their busy schedule and seem certain at Friday’s meeting to seek a further delay – at least, as previously reported, until the next Council meeting in June – before any final decision is made.
“We think it’s premature to agree on such matters before the future international calendar has been approved,” one European national federation chief executive told Insideworldfootball. “There is a lot of congestion in 2021 and that’s a major issue.”
Infantino is seeking re-election as FIFA president in June and has promised member associations that they will receive significant increases in funding – much of it emanating from the revamped Club World Cup and new Nations League, for which the as yet not fully identified investors have apparently promised $13 billion over 12 years.
But asked whether the calendar issue meant 2021 would be a non-starter for the commencement of Infantino’s plan, the afore-mentioned source replied: “That assumption is correct. And beyond that, the international calendar first needs to be agreed.”
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