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The beautiful game is currently mired in dissent as the president of FIFA (the global soccer football federation), Gianni Infanto, is experiencing serious push back from European clubs about the organization's expansion plans. He seeks to gain approval for two new tournaments, a World Cup for clubs, and, in addition, a new league for national teams.

Last November, Infanto proffered a radical idea for the FIFA World Cup of nations, the event every two-years instead of the usual four.  Many countries perceived this idea as solely a money grab, which, if offered, would dilute the tournament's respected status from a successful every four-year old model, in existence since the earliest tournament in 1930.

However, Infanto has two cards to play, assurance from a Japanese business consortium of a $25 billion funding promise, and backing of the new plans from South American, African, and Asian football officials

The unified naysayers are the European Club Association, a union of the continent’s top clubs, and a separate group representing the continent’s domestic leagues. They see an unworkable calendar for the expanded leagues, adding to the existing workload of players who compete in regular league play.

But also the salient reason would be the significant loss of income if the new FIFA leagues forced the termination of the highly profitable UEFA Champions League now in its 64th season. The popular fan event features a familiar tournament of Europe's premier football clubs. 

The head of the European resistance said, "Money does not rule — and the European sports model must be respected. Football is not for sale. I will not let anyone sacrifice its structures on the altar of a highly cynical and ruthless mercantilism."

World Rugby has recommended that the Rugby World Cup expand possibly from the current 20 nations set up to include four more clubs as early as 2023 in France but probably by 2027. Few perceive expansion as having a positive step, the adding in of lower ranked nations (beyond the twentieth placement) as creating a more competitive RWC. 

In addition, World Rugby's goal is to eliminate the November Tests, and to substitute a “World League”, comprising the top 12 ranked nations, competing for a winner-take-all finish. The Six Nations Championship representing the top European nations rejects this concept.

In international soccer football and rugby, Europe is clashing with the sport's governing body. Which will prevail?

 

Comments

The top-12 tournament is a ridiculous idea. While expansion of the RWC would not increase pools' competitiveness, it could have positive benefits for the game and the tournament: Playing in four pools of six would provide an opportunity to add plate and bowl competitions, which would give more matches and more to play for for the teams placing below the top two in their pool. (For tournaments held in Tier 2 countries, it would help retain interest beyond the pool stage. How many local supporters will be hyped up about the knock-out stages of the tournament if the Brave Blossoms place third in their pool again this fall?) Playing the plate and bowl finals in a different venue and at an earlier time on the day of the cup final, with remote viewing of the cup final at the other finals' venue(s), it could boost total ticket sales and a festival atmosphere. Adding a sixth team to each pool would also balance the pools' schedules and give each team another match without extending the length of pool play too much, as there's already a non-playing team in each round. Currently the teams that place 3-5 in each pool play four matches (and are most often the teams that have the shorter turn-around times between matches, while the top two seeds rest). With pools of six, teams get five matches with a balanced schedule in the pools. Add plate and bowl brackets, and teams are guaranteed six matches, (up to eight, if they win in the knock-outs).
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