Fifa is planning to hold a special meeting next month at which two lucrative tournaments could be given the go-ahead.
Football’s world governing body is said to have held “promising” consultations in recent weeks with regional confederations, individual football associations and leading clubs over the creation of a revamped Club World Cup and a new ‘Nations League’.
The tournaments would generate $25bn (£17.9bn) in revenue.A source close to the organisation told BBC Sport that if the governing body believes there is an appetite for the competitions, it will invite its ruling council members to an extraordinary session which will likely be held at its headquarters in Zurich and is tentatively scheduled for mid-May.
Europe’s elite clubs have recently called for fewer matches, mandatory rest periods for players, and the alignment of confederation tournaments but Fifa officials are confident their proposals meet those demands and have held “positive” talks with top sides in recent days.
“Not everyone will agree with this but we want to give an opportunity to discuss the offer that has been made,” said the source.
“The discussions so far have been promising. This is not about selling football. We have serious investors and the secure finances would be shared with everyone involved in the game.”Attendees at Fifa’s annual congress, which is being staged in Moscow this year on the eve of the World Cup, will be asked whether or not to approve a feasibility study to examine if the 2022 edition should be expanded to 48 teams.
The World Cup is already due to expand to 48 teams from the 2026 tournament, after Fifa approved an expansion from 32 last year.
Qatar won the right to host the 2022 event but has been mired in controversy and allegations of corruption ever since.
If approved, the study will examine if it is possible for Qatar to successfully host an additional 16 teams given the extra games and logistical challenges such a move would inevitably create.
The study would also seek to find answers to whether it could become a regional event with Qatar’s neighbouring countries invited to stage some of the games.
Qatar has always insisted that it did nothing wrong when bidding for the tournament and, when the idea of 48 teams was first raised earlier this month by South American football associations, organisers said in a statement “we are confident in our ability to deliver a successful World Cup in 2022”.Fifa’s leadership is not keen on two of its existing tournaments. It wants to reform and expand the Club World Cup, scrap the Confederations Cup – used as a warm-up by the World Cup hosts in the year before the tournament – and introduce a ‘Nations League’.
In documents sent to confederation leaders, which have been seen by BBC Sport, Fifa says it wants to “[deepen] the relationship between fans and the game on a worldwide basis. This is clearly not happening with the existing Fifa Club World Cup and Fifa Confederations Cup.”
How would the Club World Cup be revamped?
The Club World Cup is held each December featuring seven teams. Fifa wants to expand the competition to 24 clubs and move it to June. It would be played every four years.
- 24 teams from around the world would be split into eight groups of three.
- The winners would then progress to a knockout format. It would see the finalists play a maximum of five matches.
How would the money be split?
There are four editions under consideration (2021, 2025, 2029, 2033). Each comes with a minimum financial guarantee of $3bn (£2.15bn).
Where would it be played?
That is still to be decided.
But Fifa wants what it calls the “host market” to have a “strong appetite for football”. In addition, there must be strong commercial potential, growth potential for clubs, Fifa and “football generally”. Infrastructure will also be key and Fifa has not ruled out that the hosts will have to pay a fee.
What are the plans for the Nations League?
European governing body Uefa and Concacaf (the confederation for North America, Central America and the Caribbean) already have plans in place to host their own Nations League.
Fifa wants to build on this and says it wants to create more opportunities for national teams to play meaningful games within the existing international match calendar.
It describes the format as operating “at confederation level, with different levels/divisions divided into groups of four teams, ensuring six games for each national team. The best teams would then qualify for a “Final 8″ tournament (essentially up to three games) in the following year”.
If approved, there would be a minimum financial guarantee of $1bn (£700m) for the rights of the first edition in 2020-21.
This would rise to $4bn (£2.87bn) for three further editions between that date and 2033.
Where is the money coming from? And how would Fifa benefit?
Fifa’s president Gianni Infantino told the organisation’s ruling council members during a meeting in Colombia last month that investors from Asia, Europe and North America were promising $25bn in revenues if they could be involved with the creation of the new tournaments.
BBC Sport has been told there are no Chinese investors nor any direct links to business interests in Saudi Arabia.
A new company would be created between Fifa and the investors. Fifa would have a majority share with a 51% stake and, sources insist, would retain overall control on important decisions, including those of a sporting nature. It would also have the right to appoint half of the board members.
In documents seen by BBC Sport, Infantino has described the investors as “among the world’s most solid”. Their identity remains unknown due to a non-disclosure agreement signed between the relevant parties.
The investors have made, it is claimed, minimum guarantees which would amount to $25bn in revenue over a 12-year period (2021-2033).
The Nations League would account for $13bn (£9.3bn) of the total with the Club World Cup generating $12bn (£8.6bn).
The new company would make its money by commercialising the rights to the tournament.
Fifa is also promising not to financially benefit itself from the tournaments – it would instead redistribute all of what it makes, after costs, to football associations and the regional confederations. Some of the money from the Club World Cup would also be shared with national leagues, non-participating clubs and would also support costs for youth and women’s tournaments.
What else is being promised?
The consortium of investors is also promising $1bn (£700m) to develop Fifa’s digital platform.
Internal documents detail plans to “distribute and commercialise” digital content and form part of Fifa’s overall plan to enhance its digital offering to fans.
What happens now?
Regional confederation leaders are due to meet Fifa in Zurich this week. It’s understood there are also talks ongoing with other football stakeholders as Fifa looks to build support. These discussions are said to have been “promising” so far and a meeting of Fifa’s council could be held next month which would look to give approval to the plans, refine the formats of the tournaments (in particular the Nations League) and outline a shared overall strategy.
Fifa would then be able to finalise a deal with the investors but says the finer points would still need to be ironed out.
This will have powerful opponents though?
The European Club Association (ECA), which represents most of the top sides on the continent, expressed concern recently over the fixture calendar. It wants fewer games, players to have more rest and greater consideration and alignment over regional tournaments.
“It is not about adding competition in this moment,” ECA president Andrea Agnelli said in March. “To us the priorities are addressing the calendar post-2024.”
Meetings with ECA member clubs have been held since then – agreement from them will be vital. Talks are said to have been “positive”.
Fifa is looking to answer the questions raised by pointing, for example, to a reduction of playing days for the Club World Cup and working with the confederations on the Nations League plan.
The number of fixtures and time at tournaments is also something they feel has been considered. Under the new format for the Club World Cup, 31 games would be played over a total of 18 days. Fifa ultimately feels the proposals are for the benefit of the game as a whole – the job now is convince those whom it will impact within the sport.