By Tony Attwood
A remarkable report just published suggests that far from being against the SuperLeague, Fifa is actually in favour of the idea as it gives Fifa a chance to grab more power in its battle with Uefa. Also it allows Fifa to open discussions on another front, to distract from its on going legal case in Switzerland (which has still never been reported in the English press – presumably at the request of or demand of Fifa).
The research which has unravelled this latest unreported development appeared on the Josimar website and it starts by noting that Fifa and its confederations have said that SuperLeague would not be recognised and that any club involved would be thrown out of any competition organised by Fifa or any of its confederations.
But what the Josimar site points out is that while Uefa declared itself totally against the SuperLeague, Fifa did not join in the condemnation, but instead placed itself as the “neutral arbiters in an international dispute” acting as a body that wanted to resolve the dispute in a way that was acceptable to all sides.
It called ‘on all parties involved in heated debates to engage in a calm, constructive and balanced dialogue for the good of the game and in a spirit of solidarity and fair play. FIFA, of course, will do whatever is necessary to contribute to a harmonized path towards the general interests of football‘.
Now the view put forward by Uefa was that there was no dialogue to be had since the rules of Uefa had been broken by the clubs, and Infantino had announced that Fifa disapproved.
However it now begins to appear that Fifa had actually been party to the evolution of Super League. Indeed the La Liga chair, Javier Tebas said on 11 May that Infantino was behind Super League!
The clue to Infantino’s actual position came in a speech in December 2019 in which he proposed an African Super League saying, in a speech in Lumumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, “We have to take the 20 best African clubs and put them in an Africa league. Such a league could make at least US$200 million in revenue, which would put it among the top ten in the world.”
It was then reported in KickOff that he was saying same thing to Sports Press Association two months later
“I want to create a real pan-African league that would feature 20-24 clubs with a maximum of maybe two clubs per country that would still play in their national leagues but that would play during the year so we can really crown the club champions of Africa.”
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The African Confederation has as its top man South African Patrice Motsepe, and he tweeted recently
“It was great catching up with @FIFA.com President, Gianni Infantino on the sidelines of the #CAFElections2021. The rollout of the African Super League with 20 permanent member clubs is underway. We look forward to having @SimbaSCTanzania participate soon.”
Obviously the notion of “permanent” members is exactly the same as the notion put forward by the group in Europe, which of course as we know, included Arsenal.
What links the two ideas together is the way in which clubs in Europe and Africa have mishandled their finances. Barcelona is in a dire state financially as we have discussed before, and Juventus is in the same mess. There has recently been suggestions that even Real Madrid can’t see a way out of its financial position post-pandemic.
The problem in Europe is that financial risks were being taken all over the place, which meant that when the pandemic came along no one had any room to manoeuvre with the finances except perhaps for Chelsea and Manchester City.
Indeed Josimar reports that the 12 SuperLeague clubs have accumulated over 800 million euros worth of losses in 2019-20 and this will be far exceeded in 2020-21.
Josimar notes that “It is no secret that the set-up of a revamped, enlarged Fifa Club World Cup (CWC) remains one of Gianni Infantino’s main ambitions, even if his plan to have it in place as early as this year … foundered when the pandemic hit. The competition which was supposed to welcome twenty-four teams in China, with financial backing widely believed to come from Saudi Arabia via Japanese financial group SoftBank, has now been moved to December 2021, when only seven teams will travel – or so it is hoped – to Japan.”
Infantino’s idea was that the Club World Cup would start in 2023/4 and consist of 32 teams of which 12 would be the Super League clubs. It would be played for every January as a knock out competition across a three week period.
This would give more power to Fifa and remove power from Uefa and other bodies, which are threatening Fifa’s dominance. It would also distract from the legal case that Infantino has found himself in the middle of, in Switzerland itself.
In an interview in L’Équipe Infantino spoke against taking action against the clubs involved in Super League saying “you always have to be careful when you talk about sanctions. It’s said quickly that you have to punish. It’s even popular — or populist — sometimes. By punishing a club, for example, you are also punishing players, coaches and fans, who have nothing to do with it… I always prefer dialogue to conflict, even in the most delicate situations”.
In fact reading what Infantino has since said, it is clear that he is not against Super League as such, but against Super League not run by Fifa. Which is not the same at all.