FIFA president shows no intention of backing down amid legal threats

FIFA has been told it faces legal action from the World Leagues Association and FIFPRO.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino was defiant in the face of potential legal action over his organisation’s men’s Club World Cup
FIFA president Gianni Infantino was defiant in the face of potential legal action over his organisation’s men’s Club World Cup (Nick Potts/PA)

FIFA president Gianni Infantino described the prospect of a legal row over his organisation’s plans for a 32-team men’s Club World Cup next summer as a “futile debate”.

FIFA has been told it faces legal action from the World Leagues Association, chaired by Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and world players’ union FIFPRO if it does not reschedule the tournament, which is due to take place in the United States in June and July next year.

Infantino showed no intention of backing down as he addressed FIFA’s member associations at Congress in Bangkok on Friday.

“Even with the new Club World Cup of FIFA with 32 teams and 63 matches every four years, FIFA is organising around one per cent of the games of the top clubs in the world,” he said.

“All other matches, 98, 99 per cent, are organised by the different leagues, associations, confederations, by all of you – and that’s good.

“But here comes the thing – the one or two per cent of matches that FIFA organises is financing football all over the world. The revenues that we generate are not just going to a few clubs in one country. The revenues that we generate are going to 211 countries all over the world.

“There is no other organisation that does that. So I hope these figures – which you can of course check and calculate – should probably stop this futile debate which is really pointless and focus on what we have to do, what our mission is, which is to organise events and competitions and to develop football around the world, because 70 per cent of you, the member associations of FIFA. would have no football without the resources coming directly from FIFA.”

FIFA confirmed Infantino would not, as has conventionally been the case, stage a press conference after the Congress, with the floor instead entirely given to the bidders for the 2027 Women’s World Cup.

A letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino sent last week and seen by the PA news agency, said the sport’s schedule was now “beyond saturation”.

It said calendar changes such as the addition of the new Club World Cup, the expansion of the men’s World Cup and the addition of the Intercontinental Cup – had created “economic harm” to domestic leagues and have pushed players “beyond their limits”.

He announced plans for a new under-15s football festival with teams from all 211 member associations and spoke about the prospect of a ‘Legends World Cup’ for ex-pros.

He also said FIFA, which ended its partnership with EA Sports last year, was working on a new “e game”.

“Football simulation game is called FIFA for hundreds of millions of children around the world. When they play (a) football simulation game they play FIFA, it cannot be named something else.

“We are developing new partners and a new game which, obviously as everything we do, will be the best. So get ready for the new FIFA game.”

Congress later voted through a number of amendments to the FIFA statutes, including a controversial measure to allow Congress to vote on two World Cup hosting awards at the same time, if FIFA Council gives its approval to do so.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino
FIFA president Gianni Infantino (Zac Goodwin/PA)

That could lead to both the 2030 and 2034 finals being signed off at the same time, with Saudi Arabia set to be awarded the latter.

Changes to the bidding process for 2034 appeared to hand an obvious advantage to the Middle East kingdom, with a potential rival bid from Australia ultimately not materialising after they were given little time to prepare.

FIFA rules had changed on awarding World Cups after the corruption scandal surrounding the decisions on hosting for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, which were taken at the same FIFA executive committee meeting in December 2010.

Infantino closed the event by confirming a virtual Congress would be held on December 11 to decide on hosting for 2030 and 2034 “potentially”.

The 2030 finals are set to be split between Spain, Portugal and Morocco, with the first three matches of the tournament to be staged in South America to mark the centenary of the very first finals in Uruguay.