Uefa-backed PFSC aims shot at Fifa's new competition plans
European soccer’s Professional Football Strategy Council said today it has “serious reservations” about plans for a larger Club World Cup and new Global Nations League, presenting a significant hurdle to Fifa’s ambitions for a wider money-spinning competition structure.
The PFSC, which includes representatives of clubs, leagues, players and Uefa, has hit out at “the hasty timing and lack of concrete information” surrounding the proposals, as well as the limited consultation, claiming that Fifa cannot implement them “in isolation.”
Soccer’s international governing body has plans to transform the existing Club World Cup (trophy pictured) from an annual seven-team tournament to a quadrennial event involving 24 sides, including 12 from Europe, and launch a global version of the new Uefa Nations League, to be held in between World Cups, financed with the help of $25 billion in external investment.
However, critics including Uefa have claimed that the competitions have been devised without sufficient consultation and would exacerbate fixture congestion and player fatigue.
Following a meeting in Lyon ahead of tonight’s Uefa Europa League final between Marseille and Atlético Madrid, the PFSC issued a statement that read: “The PFSC unanimously expressed serious reservations about the process surrounding the Fifa Club World Cup and Global Nations League proposals and in particular the hasty timing and lack of concrete information and underlined the need for a clearly defined procedure, which respect existing structures and decision-making bodies and which involves all key stakeholders.
“In particular, such proposals must be considered as part of a global reflection on the overall international match calendar and cannot be decided upon in isolation.”
The PFSC comprises elected representatives of Uefa, the European Club Association, European Leagues and FIFPro Division Europe, an arm of the international players' union, and provides advice on all soccer-related issues to the Uefa executive committee.
Its opposition, and that of Uefa, as expressed by the governing body’s leader Aleksander Ceferin last week, threatens to undermine the Club World Cup and Global Nations League plans being spearheaded by Fifa president Gianni Infantino who is seeking the green light before the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia on 14 June.
The plans are reported to have the financial backing of a consortium of investors including Japan’s SoftBank and companies from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates although details remain sketchy, reportedly because of a non-disclosure agreement.
Fifa has not previously sold off control of its competitions to third parties, but Infantino is eager to create a major revenue stream aside from the quadrennial World Cup given that the existing Club World Cup and Confederations Cup are not regarded as money-spinning events.
China has offered to stage the first edition of the revamped Club World Cup in 2021, and the competition would have a prize pot of $2 billion, with the winner receiving up to $135 million, according to the UK's Times newspaper.
It added that clubs that have won the Uefa Champions League and/or its predecessor the European Cup on a minimum of three occasions are likely to be invited to take part in the inaugural competition.
Spanish giants Barcelona are the latest leading club to have given their backing to the tournament, joining their rivals Real Madrid in the pro camp.
The Catalan club’s board is quoted stating that the tournament would be “exciting, dynamic, inclusive and prestigious.” It added that Fifa’s plans would also “create a global platform for clubs to contribute to the growth of their brands.”
Addressing the issue of fixture congestion, Barcelona claimed that, because of the elimination of the annual Club World Cup and the quadrennial Confederations Cup, there would actually be a reduction of more than 35 per cent in the number of matches.
Barcelona and Real Madrid were among seven leading European clubs (the others being Juventus, Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich) that held talks with Fifa on the Club World Cup last week, according to the New York Times.
The clubs that have won the Champions League and/or European Cup three times are Real Madrid, AC Milan, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Ajax, Manchester United and Inter Milan, and it is thought that Juventus, which have won two elite European and two Intercontinental Cup titles, would also be invited to an expanded Club World Cup.
Last week, Ceferin argued that Fifa was putting too much pressure on players already “at the limit”, and being elitist in only involving the top clubs in its plans for an expanded Club World Cup, while claiming three of those that attended last week’s meeting did “not agree” with the international federation’s approach.
The Slovenian official also accused Fifa of hijacking Uefa’s plan for a Global Nations League, which it had itself put to Infantino, the national associations and clubs before now, only to want to sell it to an investment fund.
The Uefa Nations League, a competition that essentially replaces international friendlies, begins this September.
Meanwhile, the Fifa appeal committee has reduced the ban imposed on Worawi Makudi, the former president of the Football Association of Thailand, from five to three and a half years. The fine of SFr10,000 ($10.014) was confirmed.
Makudi was banned by the ethics committee in October 2016 having been handed a 16-month prison sentence in his home country for altering documents ahead of the FAT presidential election in 2013. The guilty verdict for forgery and falsification was overturned by a Thai appeals court, but Fifa maintains there were infringements of its code of ethics.
Makudi was a member of the Fifa executive committee for 18 years before being voted off in elections of the Asian Football Confederation in April 2015.