By Samindra Kunti
February 25 – Billions, billions and more billions. That seems to be a core part of Gianni Infantino’s modus operandi as supremo at FIFA. His latest trawl for cash has seen the world federation acquire the services of American financial firm Raine Group to seek the $1 billion the organisation will need to kick-start a revamped 24-team Club World Cup in 2021.
On Monday, the New York Times reported that the global governing body has turned to Raine Group to source the money that would seal the participation of Europe’s top clubs in the reformatted tournament, with Liverpool, Juventus and Barcelona among the clubs, who demand robust financial incentives, including, but not restricted to, some form of equity. There have also been talks to include as many 12 teams, or half of the playing field, from Europe, in the competition.
The expanded Club World Cup, which FIFA hopes in the long-term will be able to compete with the Champions League and generate another major revenue stream, has become something of a pet project for Infantino that has, however, left him politically isolated. Previously, Infantino has promised that FIFA, a non-profit organisation with cash reserves in excess of $2.7 billion, will invest a $1 billion in the women’s game and will pump the same amount of money into African football in a bid to build state-of-the-art stadiums.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, a slate of clubs and leagues have repeatedly voiced major concern about the Club World Cup plans, which they see as dangerous interference in European club football.
Infantino’s relationship with CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez has also soured lately. The South American supremo was not invited to a meeting between the world federation and South American clubs. Recently, Dominguez and his organisation reinforced a memorandum of understanding with UEFA and in retaliation, it seems, FIFA then scrapped the FIFA Council meeting that Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital and home to CONMEBOL, had been set to stage. The world’s governing body pointed at travel times, costs, environmental decisions and the Coronavirus to justify their decision, but the last-minute switch was met with fury by Dominguez, who accused Infantino of an “abuse of power”.
In 2018, Infantino tried to sell off the Club World Cup to a group of investors led by Japanese behemoth SoftBank, but he failed to garner the support of the FIFA Council. Some European members of the Council complained that they had been presented with a fait accompli, without receiving enough detailed information about the format of the revamped tournament or the potential investors.
The Raine Group has now been charged with finding the money for FIFA’s 2021 Club World Cup in China. Banker Joe Ravitch co-founded the American group, which also has offices in Mumbai and Shanghai. Last year, they brokered the $500-million deal between Manchester City and Silver Lake Partners.
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1590572318labto1590572318ofdlr1590572318owedi1590572318sni@t1590572318catno1590572318c1590572318