Euro 2020 Special

FIFA Announces Expanded Club World Cup


FIFA have announced ambitions plans to expand the Club World Cup from 7 to 32 teams from 2025 onwards, and also hopes to introduce a female equivalent, with both being held every four years.

In addition, they also plan to stage World Series tournaments, which will feature teams from different Confederations.

The world governing body is looking to expand further its revenue base, although there seems to have been no consideration given to player welfare.


What is the Club World Cup?

The Club World Cup is an annual tournament which sees the winners of each of FIFA’s seven confederations premier competitions meet to decide the overall world champion.

It replaced a game that used to be staged between the winner of the Champions League (Europe) and the Copa Libertadores (South America).

The tournament is regarded with varying degrees of respect. Whilst it is highly prized in South America, it is largely ignored in Europe, where it is regarded as a distraction from domestic seasons.

Despite that, European teams have dominated it in recent years, winning 14 out of the last 15 finals.

The next version will be held in Morocco in February 2023, and will feature seven teams, five of whom have already been decided – Real Madrid (UEFA), Flamengo (CONMEBOL), Sounders FC (CONCACAF), Auckland City Oceania), and Wyland Casablanca (the hosts and winners of African Champions League).

They will be joined by an additional representative from Africa, and the winners of the Asian Champions League.


Why the expansion?

The expansion can be seen as part of a wider attempt to broaden the revenue base of FIFA, who are currently primarily depend on the staging of World Cups to generate most of their income, and they only come along every four years.

It also needs to be viewed in the context of the power struggle with UEFA, the European governing body, who run the Champions League, which is the most prestigious club competition in the world, and also the most lucrative.


FIFA would like to steal some of this money from the Champions League and also some of the appeal, and the Club World Cup is being expanded despite UEFA, and not with their support.

And the timing of the new Club World Cup may also bring the two governing bodies into conflict again, scheduled as it is for June 2025, which is when many players at top European clubs would expect to be on Nations League duties with their countries.


Many details still unclear

Beyond the intention to expand the Club World Cup from seven to thirty-two teams, FIFA have not clarified many details as to how the next competition will work.

For example, on what basis will teams be chosen? Currently on the winners of the Champions League in each Confederation qualify to play in it, but the criteria will need to be expanded in future.

Also, how will the format of the competition be organised – will it be on a straight knock-out basis, or will teams be split into groups first, like in a World Cup?

That will have a direct impact on the number of matches a team can expect to play if they reach the final.


Nobody has asked the players

In all these ambitious plans, one group who do not appear to have been consulted at all are the players. Already the players’ global union FIFPro, has expressed its concern about the amount of games that players are being asked to play, and yet the football schedule continually expands.

Whilst some may argue that those at the top level are very well remunerated, and the money to pay their wages has to come from somewhere, the more games that they play increases the risk of injury and burn-out.

And, in commercial terms, it also diminishes the quality of the product on offer.

Fatigued and half-fit players will not be able to put on the same show as those who are fresh and rested.

An expanded Club World Cup also cuts into valuable holiday time between the end of one season and the start of the next, which will often see them required, by their clubs, to go on valuable pre-season tours, often to distant countries.


Infantino emboldened

However, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been emboldened to press ahead with these plans, knowing that he already has the votes to be re-elected for a third term in office unopposed. And his prestige has also been enhanced by the success of the Qatar World Cup, at least in commercial terms, which he has claimed as the best yet (conveniently ignored the host of ethical and moral issues surrounding Qatar being chosen to host it in the first place.




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