Gianni Infantino has risked a major row with Europe’s leading federations by announcing that Fifa will launch a 32-team men’s Club World Cup in 2025.
In what amounts to an ambush to the Premier League and its counterparts, the Fifa president confirmed the drastic expansion of a tournament whose current annual iteration sees seven teams compete. His revelation was made even though no agreements have been made with the relevant domestic leagues.
The revamped event will, as trailed by Infantino, take place every four years. It is understood that no formal proposals have been shown to the Premier League, whose stance was set in November 2021 and remains unchanged. Back then the league’s chief executive, Richard Masters, said it was “committed to preventing any radical changes to the post-2024 Fifa international match calendar that would adversely affect player welfare and threaten the competitiveness, calendar, structures and traditions of domestic football.”
There is no indication at this stage about the likely venue for a tournament that will require significant financial backing. An expanded Club World Cup has long been a hobby horse of Infantino’s. In 2018 he proposed a new 24-team event that was looked on dimly by Uefa; it was slated to take place in China last year but was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Barrelling on with a plan for an even bigger event will raise eyebrows across Europe and sets some of the sport’s key stakeholders on a collision course. It is inconceivable Infantino’s plan would not involve a bulk of European teams. He also confirmed a new women’s Club World Cup is being planned.
Infantino’s announcement was his most eyecatching statement in a press conference, staged in the runup to Sunday’s World Cup final in Doha, which revealed that this winter’s tournament had brought in $7.5bn in revenues, $1bn more than budgeted, and boasted of its “unique cohesive power”. The president offered little in the way of answers to questions about off-pitch issues that have clouded Qatar 2022, saying Fifa is “defending human rights” and suggesting that figures around the deaths of migrant workers connected with the tournament have not been used accurately.
He also announced that a new “Fifa World Series” of friendly tournaments, designed to pit teams from different continents against each other more frequently, will take place in even years across the March international break.
The proposal was light on detail but is likely to generate further concerns about its added impact on existing scheduling and players’ travel time.
There were outbreaks of common sense in a speech that otherwise posed many more questions than solutions. Infantino said Fifa will reconsider the format of the group stage at the expanded 2026 World Cup, the drama of this year’s quarters reducing the likelihood that the next edition will comprise 16 groups of three. He also said that from 2025 the September and October international windows will be merged to create one extended break with four matchdays. A new women’s futsal World Cup was also among the raft of new events Infantino introduced.