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CVC talks to Fifa and Real Madrid about rival club competition plans

Real Madrid lifts the 2018 FIFA Club World Cup trophy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Private equity company CVC Capital Partners has had separate talks with Fifa and Real Madrid about investing in two competing versions of a world club football championship, according to the Financial Times.

CVC is reported to be in talks with Fifa about acquiring the commercial rights for the confederation’s Club World Cup, which is expanding to a 24-team tournament from 2021. Fifa is to launch a tender process for the commercial rights in the coming days.

Under a major commercial revamp, Fifa awarded China the hosting rights to the expanded Club World Cup at its Council meeting in Shanghai in October.

In March, Fifa voted to approve plans to launch the 24-team Club World Cup in 2021, despite opposition from Europe’s leading clubs. Proposals to change the Club World Cup have proved controversial ever since it emerged that a group of investors was willing to pay $25bn (€22.5bn) for the rights to the expanded club competition, in addition to the rights to a new global Nations League.

However, Fifa is now seeking new corporate backing after a consortium including Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and London-based global investment firm Centricus abandoned a deal.

Separately, Real Madrid executives are said to have approached CVC about investing in a rival world club tournament.

One competition format said to be under consideration by Real Madrid is two leagues of 20 teams each. The Financial Times reports that some of the teams would be drawn from the World Football Club Association formed last month and led by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez.

The WFCA has eight ‘founding clubs’: Real Madrid, AC Milan, Auckland City (New Zealand), Boca Juniors, River Plate, America (Mexico), Guangzhou (China), and Mazembe (Congo).

Amid the increasing private equity appetite for top-tier sport, CVC is soon expected to finalise its £120m (€142m/$157.6m) acquisition of a 27-per-cent stake in Pro14, the cross-border rugby union competition.

In September, CVC, which has a long history of investment in sports stakeholders, entered into an exclusive period of negotiations to acquire a minority stake in the Six Nations. In December 2018, it sealed a deal for a 27-per-cent stake in Premiership Rugby, the body that oversees the top rugby union division in England.

Last month, CVC was also part of a major $600m funding deal for Bruin Sports Capital.