FIFA cosies up to ECA with new MoU and the promise of more money for the big clubs

March 28 – The European Club Association (ECA) and FIFA have extended and expanded a Memorandum of Understanding that will now run until the end of 2030.

FIFA says the new MoU will bring “long-term stability to the national team and club game”.  It will also make the ECA a much closer partner in the new Club World Cup that kicks off in 2025, including potentially making the ECA a commercial partner in the sale of commercial rights.

It is an MoU that goes beyond just having input into the calendar and sporting elements of the Club World Cup, FIFA’s newest major event.

Its progress and relationship with Europe’s biggest clubs will be viewed with close interest by UEFA and the European leagues (individually and collectively) – and perhaps with more than a little suspicion – as FIFA works its way into the big money club game in Europe (rather than just using it players for its World Cup competition), and more crucially into the club game’s European revenues.

It also raises questions over whether this is potentially a step towards a Super League by another name, and to how far FIFA will adhere to the principles of the European sports model in their wider global context, and in particular “to be aligned with EU values of solidarity, sustainability, inclusiveness for all, open competition, sporting merit, and fairness” – something European lawmakers demanded they wanted to see in European sports culture in 2021 following the failure of the Super League proposal.

In November 2021 the European Parliament voted to oppose breakaway sports competitions with 576 members voting to oppose the Super League in a non-binding resolution, with 36 against and 55 abstentions.

Back then FIFA, while welcoming the report from the European Parliament that addressed a number of issues within football, was noticeably quiet on the biggest issue of the time – the Super League breakaway – perhaps because its president Gianni Infantino was reported as being the unnamed ‘WO1’ person named in a Super League manifesto as the highest-ranking person in world football supporting the breakaway.

ECA chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi said: “FIFA and ECA will also now establish closer working practices on a future revamped Club World Cup, including the sporting and commercial aspects for the 2025 edition, and working together on future editions including on potential structures for managing the commercial rights going forward.”

Al-Khelaifi is president of PSG who didn’t join the Super League elite, though will likely be part of the Club World Cup through the ranking qualification criteria that limits the number of teams from any single country – the effect of that criteria is pretty much to create a predominantly closed league in terms of European club qualification.

Infantino said: “This is a significant day for the future of football and its long-term stability. We are very happy to renew and strengthen our cooperation agreement with ECA, an important stakeholder representing clubs from all over Europe.

“To have the new International Match Calendar endorsed by ECA provides the necessary balance between club and national team football. We have exciting projects ahead, including the new FIFA Club World Cup in 2025 and the new FIFA Women`s Club World Cup. A close collaboration with clubs in Europe, and the rest of the world, will be essential for the success of those events.”

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