UEFA to walk out if FIFA forces vote on Club World Cup revamp - sources
UEFA's nine representatives on the FIFA Council will walk out of Friday's meeting and boycott proceedings if FIFA president Gianni Infantino forces a vote on his proposal to organize a fully fledged summer Club World Cup and a new Nations League-style tournament, sources told ESPN.
Last-ditch attempts at mediation were unsuccessful Thursday night, when Infantino met with the presidents of FIFA's six continental confederations ahead of the meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, according to sources familiar with the situation.
European confederation UEFA is unhappy with the plans and feels there has not been enough consultation among stakeholders and that the project's financial backers have not been identified. FIFA say the backers, who are known to Infantino, included a nondisclosure agreement as part of the deal, worth a guaranteed $25 billion over 12 years, to organize both tournaments. Multiple news organizations have identified the backers as a consortium of Chinese, American and Saudi investors, operating via Japan's SoftBank. Neither FIFA nor SoftBank has denied this.
Infantino told The Associated Press and New York Times that "we have to think out of the box to think about new models to preserve football and the relevance of football and the structure of football."
UEFA is also annoyed at the news that the financial backers have said they will withdraw their offer if the proposal is not voted on Friday, seeing it as an attempt to strong-arm council members into supporting the proposal.
"Maybe [there is] some misunderstanding," Infantino said. "I don't know what the reasons are and I'm still confident that we will find the right kind of solution."
Infantino's plan is to replace the FIFA Confederations Cup -- played between national teams the year before the World Cup -- with a full-blown, 24-team Club World Cup to be held every four years starting in 2021. Along with this, Infantino has proposed a sort of "mini World Cup" every two years of eight national teams who would presumably qualify via different confederations.
The European Clubs Association (ECA) -- which represents the interests of major European clubs -- opposes the proposal, according to sources. And the World Leagues Forum -- a body representing leagues from around the world -- wrote to Infantino stating they were "firmly opposed to any decision at this stage" in a letter signed by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert and Mexican Liga MX executive president Enrique Bonilla.
Sources say UEFA is working on an alternative proposal for a summer club competition in conjunction with Relevent Sports, which organizes the International Champions Cup competition in North America, Asia and Australia.
The prospect of an acrimonious split among football's top governing bodies that would have far-reaching implications for the sport appears very real.