by Tony Attwood
It was only a few weeks ago that Arsène Wenger suggested that a European Super League was on the way. In saying that he made the point that one way for the Premier League to respond might be to cut itself to 16 teams.
That would leave Manchester City as champions for as long as there is no revolution or war in the middle east, with six teams fighting for the other three Champions League spots and three teams going for the Europa. The remaining ten would be involved in avoiding relegation.
The issue was not one that many people noticed, but it has raised its head in a different form as Gianni Infantino, the head of Fifa (almost wrote Mafia there, which of course I didn’t mean at all and would be completely wrong) set out his proposals for a Club World Cup to replace the existing proto Club World Cup.
The driving force as always is money, as it is being said that Fifa was offered a $25bn for a 12-year arrangement with a Japanese-led consortium which also includes investors from the Middle East. Just think of all that extra money floating around in small companies based in Switzerland and South America as people buy and sell the TV rights.
At present the Club World Cup is a seven-team event held at the end of each calendar year for the champions of each continent and the host nation’s league winner. It hardly gets noticed in the UK since our teams don’t normally participate, although if an English club looked like winning the Champs League it would cause havoc. Most other countries have a winter break and can work around that. Liverpool if they win this year could be a bit stretched come the turn of the year.
This new competition would fill up the one gap left in world-long football by being played in June and/or July every four years. It would include 12 European teams, including both the Champions League finalists and Europa League winners from the previous four seasons.
Meanwhile there would be four places allocated to the Copa Libertadores winners along with a couple of places each for Africa, Asia and the North American region, one from the host and then one more, probably as the result of a play off which involves teams having three hours on the pitch for the home and away games and four days travelling across 12 time zones each way.
Infantino wants new events for two reasons. One to take away interest in the continuing concern about where all the money goes, and the other because he needs a manifesto for his election next year. So the “Global Nations League” brand is born.
According to some reports Infantino has already talked with Manchester United and Manchester City about the idea and is said to have offered them $94m each, for each tournament. Real Madrid and Barcelona have been offered the same and put their hands out in welcome, since this extra money will all help make their league less and less competitive. Not that it is competitive anyway.
At first Infantino tried to bully the Fifa Council into submission on the plan by saying there was just two months to make a decision. That time frame has passed without a decision because of a lot of objection from the clubs not involved. These clubs fear they will be see the rich list get richer and secure the championship of their leagues not just for a few years but for decades at a time. Another nail in the coffin of competitiveness.
Some clubs have even worried about the extra matches for their players – a rare moment of concern – but there is also talk of expanding the squads so that the big clubs can hoover up more players for themselves and rotate them. Richard Scudamore said he didn’t like the plan but reckoned the deal was already done so he couldn’t do much about it. That’s what people get for giving everything to Uefa and Fifa and never fighting back.
Only Uefa, now freed from the dominance of Infantino and his free flowing cash, have stood up against the plan as their football strategy council said that the members “unanimously expressed serious reservations about the process … and in particular the hasty timing and lack of concrete information”.
Infantino is said to be trying to push this through by the start of the World Cup in a few weeks.
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