By Andrew Warshaw
March 14 – One of the key components of Gianni Infantino’s project to change the landscape of football’s global competitions has been ditched just 24 hours before it was to be put to the decision-making FIFA Council.
In a blow to Infantino’s efforts to secure more funding for FIFA members, according to Reuters, FIFA has backed away from a vote on plans to create a global version of UEFA’s Nations League after a Task Force set up to examine the idea reportedly said that it was unable to find consensus on a suitable format.
Friday’s Miami summit will still discuss whether to launch a revamped Club World Cup comprising 24 teams to replace the Confederations Cup – and whether adding 16 more finalists to the Qatar World Cup in 2022 is feasible.
UEFA has consistently expressed its opposition to the plans until and unless there is more consultation but German football boss and FIFA Council member Reinhard Grindel appeared to soften that stance in an interview with Deutsche Welle television.
“If we don’t hold a competition like (the Club World Cup), then commercial enterprises will,” Grindel was quoted as saying. “An advantage of a Club World Cup is that the income would remain entirely in football.”
FIFA are proposing a ‘pilot’ edition of the tournament to be held in 2021 between June 17 and July 4. A report to Friday’s summit apparently says five of the six confederations were in favour of the proposal, the exception obviously being UEFA which is concerned about the already established international calendar suddenly being altered.
As far as the World Cup is concerned, Council members – lacking the heads of both the African and Asian confederations who will not be present – will have to grapple with the fact that to expand 2022 from 32 to 48 teams, a quarter of the matches might have to be held outside Qatar.
That throws up the question of exactly where they would be staged given the Saudi-led diplomatic boycott of the World Cup hosts – a significant obstacle to expansion as confirmed by the feasibility study report that will be put to Friday’s meeting.
“Due to the geopolitical situation in the region and the recent blockade that Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE have imposed on Qatar, the involvement of such countries in organising a co-hosted tournament with Qatar would require the lifting of such blockade, in particular the lifting of all restrictions relating to the movement of people and goods between these countries,” the study said.
Oman and Kuwait have been suggested as politically acceptable co-hosts in the region.
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