Battle lines drawn between top clubs, FIFA over new Club World Cup

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There’s a new conflict between FIFA and Europe’s top clubs, represented by the European Club Association.

Despite warnings from the ECA and a stated refusal to take part in a new-look FIFA Club World Cup that would take place in the summer, the FIFA Council overwhelmingly approved a proposal to revamp the Club World Cup anyway.

Under the new format, the next club World Cup will take place in June/July 2021, with 24 teams taking part. The new tournament would take the place of the FIFA Confederations Cup, and will take place during the FIFA international window. It’s unclear where the club World Cup will take place, though it’s likely it won’t be in Qatar, which is hosting the 2022 World Cup in the winter due to extreme heat in the summer.

So, why did FIFA, and president Gianni Infantino, push for and then approve this plan in the face of European clubs? For money, of course.

FIFA sees all the money that UEFA makes during the UEFA Champions League, and the same to an extent from CONMEBOL for the Copa Libertadores, and FIFA says to itself, “we want some of that revenue.”

That, along with some internal politics to please constituents outside of Europe means we’ve ended up with a much bigger club World Cup.

FIFA has decided that its worth the gamble of potentially playing a made-for-tv tournament without the best teams in the world, or they think that they can incentivize the ECA to play by the time the tournament would take place.

One of the big questions that has to be asked is whether there are any winners here. For the players, it’s even more games on top of an already incredibly busy club season, not to mention those who play international matches as well. Will players be so burnt out that they miss extensive time during the club season, when the clubs need them most? And could it jeopardize their health ahead of FIFA’s real showcase, the men’s World Cup?

For the fans, who are conditioned to watching National Team games in the summer, will it be overload to see more club soccer and more overmatched games in a tournament? And, will fans even tune in if the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City, or Juventus decline to participate?

These are all questions FIFA executives need to ask themselves, as they try to figure out how to make wine from water, and turn a great idea on paper into reality, with buy-in from all stakeholders.