European football leaders say Fifa competition proposals ‘unacceptable’

Uefa, the European Club Association (ECA) and European Leagues have reasserted their joint opposition to Fifa’s proposals to introduce two new competitions, labelling them “unacceptable” in their present format.

The position was agreed at a meeting of Uefa’s Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC) yesterday, a body that brings the governing body together with the ECA, professional leagues and players.

After the meeting, Uefa issued a statement which said the stakeholders were of the “unequivocal view that any decision on potential new competitions can only be made as part of an agreed framework for the international match calendar post-2024”.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has put forward plans for the creation of a new 24-team Club World Cup, held every four years, and a global version of Uefa’s Nations League. Although details of the proposals are sketchy, it is thought he wants the new competitions to start in 2021, a plan that would disrupt the International Match Calendar, which has been agreed up to 2024.

The calendar, which is drawn up by world governing body Fifa, co-ordinates fixtures around the globe, allocating dates for international matches and tournaments to avoid clashes with domestic competitions.

Before even considering the idea, the European stakeholders would like Infantino to discuss their proposals for the harmonisation of the calendar post-2024. SportBusiness understands the PFSC is calling for all confederation tournaments to take place at the same time, two years after the Fifa World Cup, allowing a rest period every other summer for the leading players.

The biggest European clubs are leading the calls for harmonisation, a position that was reinforced by ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli speaking in September last year.

“The clubs’ voice needs to be heard when drafting the International Match Calendar post-2024 as we are the only stakeholder taking the entrepreneurial risks,” he said.

Fifa has already caused disruption to the International Match Calendar in the present agreed cycle after deciding to award the World Cup to Qatar in 2022. The tournament has had to be rescheduled to the winter months because of the oppressive heat in the country during the summer, a move which has had an impact on fixture scheduling throughout football.

The Uefa statement also called for Fifa to make more information available about the investors behind Infantino’s proposal. Infantino has said the plan is backed by an investment consortium willing to put in $25bn (€22bn) over a 12-year cycle in return for 49-per-cent ownership of the competitions but will not reveal the identity of the investors.

“All related sporting and commercial matters must be fully disclosed and discussed amongst professional football stakeholders beforehand,” the statement said.

Infantino’s proposals have opened a new commercial battleground between Fifa and Uefa. The plans for a revamped Club World Cup, which could feature the leading European clubs, would represent a threat to the commercial success of the Uefa Champions League, while a Global Nations League could conflict with the existing Uefa Nations League.

The sense of a growing feud between the two organisations was emphasised last week when it emerged that Uefa had registered a logo and a trademark for ‘Global Nations League’ and ‘World Nations League’ in the US in December last year.