Infantino: Nine offers for commercial rights to new-look Club World Cup

Mohamed Salah of Liverpool battles for possession with Leonel Vangioni of C.F. Monterrey during their 2019 FIFA Club World Cup semi-final match (by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has said world football’s governing body has received nine offers in response to a tender launched for the commercial rights to the revamped Club World Cup tournament.

Infantino was speaking in Doha today (Friday) on the sidelines of Qatar’s ongoing 2019 Club World Cup. He addressed the commercial interest in what will be a major overhaul that plans to create the world’s most lucrative club competition.

On December 7, Fifa announced the launch of a process “to invite various commercial and investment proposals” for its new-look tournament. Interested parties were invited to submit offers encompassing various commercial and investment models for the competition by a deadline of yesterday (Thursday).

Infantino told reporters today: “Up until yesterday we had nine offers, which is more than I expected. It shows there is great commercial interest.”

Dentsu, the Japanese advertising giant involved in sports marketing, holds the rights to deliver and commercialise the Fifa Club World Cup under its current guise.

An analysis from SportBusiness Media of Fifa’s rights proposal and those understood to be interested can be found here.

In October, Fifa confirmed that China will become the first host of an expanded Club World Cup in 2021, stating that the revamped format would have a “major impact” financially. Fifa said the tournament will be played between June and July 2021.

In June, Fifa awarded Qatar the rights to host the next two editions of the Club World Cup in 2019 and 2020. The gulf state will host the final two editions of the tournament in its current seven-team format before the event is expanded to 24 teams as part of the major commercial revamp.

In March, Fifa voted to approve plans to launch a 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 Infantino revealed that a group of investors were willing to pay $25bn (€22.55bn) for the rights to the expanded club competition, in addition to the rights to a new global Nations League.

Speaking today, Infantino said: “The Club World Cup will become the world’s best club competition. Whatever Fifa is doing has got to be the best and we shouldn’t worry or be ashamed about the commercial success. I want the Club World Cup to be the best in terms of quality on the pitch, but also in terms of revenue.”

Infantino formerly served as general secretary of Uefa before rising to power at Fifa. When asked how the new tournament will affect the Uefa Champions League, he replied: “The Champions League generates money from across the world… and the money goes where? To Europe.

“This is obviously Uefa’s mission. Fifa’s is the world. If we can pay and generate more revenues for the clubs, the top clubs, the 10, 12, 15, or however many Europeans, it will be 20 in future but also 30 across the world, then we’ve done something good.”

In a tender document to potential investors seen by the Associated Press news agency, Fifa said it is “building the tournament into the world’s greatest club football experience.”

Companies were offered the opportunity to submit their own suggestions, which Fifa said could include “alternative tournament parameters” around “frequency, format, qualification process and team participation”.

Cross-border leagues, Women’s World Cup

Infantino also hinted that Fifa’s opposition to cross-border leagues may end. This comes after the concept of creating a league comprising the top clubs from Belgium and the Netherlands moved forward in October after the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) stated that initial studies into a ‘BeNeLiga’ confirmed the “potential” of the project.

Infantino said: “We need to be open to discussions. The Belgians and the Dutch have been discussing creating a Benelux league and these discussions have been going on for 20 years and we are always saying no, because we are based on national leagues.

“But maybe it helps? Maybe it is the only way out, maybe in Europe they have to think about this, maybe in Africa. I was proposing something like this for Africa. I think we have the duty to study these things, then we will see where it goes.”

Meanwhile, Infantino has said Fifa is studying a proposal that the Women’s World Cup be held every two years instead of four. This concept was suggested by French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graët in July.

“He (Le Graët) said we should organise the Women’s World Cup every two years instead of every four years because it has such a big and positive impact on the women’s game,” Infantino said, according to UK broadcaster Sky Sports.

He added: “This is something we need to consider and we are considering it. There are a lot of exciting points with regards to women’s football in the next few years.”

Japan, Colombia, Brazil and a joint Australia-New Zealand bid are the four contenders to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, following the closure of the bid deadline on December 13.