FIFA warns no World Cup for Super League stars
The biggest names in football would be banned from the World Cup if they played in a breakaway European Super League, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday.
Infantino, speaking to a small group of reporters at FIFA headquarters, said the governing body would punish players at clubs like Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich if they left the organised structure to form a privately-owned league.
“Either you are in or you are out,” Infantino said, listing the World Cup, European Championship and national leagues as competitions that players from breakaway teams could be excluded from. “This includes everything.”
Talk of a long-threatened super league was revived on Friday when German magazine Der Spiegel published confidential documents and emails from clubs and football bodies in its “Football Leaks” series. But any breakaway from football’s historic hierarchy — FIFA, the six continental bodies and 211 national federations — would allow officials to ban players from major competitions, including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“The idea is if you break away, you break away. You don’t keep one foot in and one foot out,” FIFA legal director Alasdair Bell said. “That would be the general approach we would follow, but of course lawyers can debate this for a long time.”
Both Infantino and Bell were long-time staffers at UEFA, which has steadily changed Champions League prize money and entry rules to favour elite clubs and stall breakaway threats.
“This is the history of the last 20 years,” said Infantino, who has clashed this year with European officials and club leaders over FIFA’s proposed Club World Cup project, which is funded by Japanese investor SoftBank.
Infantino said his plan — potentially featuring at least 12 European clubs in a 24-team lineup, and worth a promised $3 billion every four years — was a good alternative to a private closed league.
“The Club World Cup is the answer to any attempt to think even about any sort of breakaway leagues,” he said.
Infantino insisted while the plan would be lucrative for clubs taking part, it also kept money in the soccer family. FIFA would use 25 percent of revenue to share globally.
“If the price to pay is to give proper revenues to a club participating in a Club World Cup but this allows us to … give $1m to Haiti who has nothing, or to Mongolia who has three time zones but only two football pitches, well then we should be I think doing that,” he said.
A FIFA task force will assess a revamp of competitions, including a new event for all national teams played every two years. Infantino said he expects a decision in March when he chairs a FIFA Council meeting in Miami. He also believes the latest breakaway threat will calm.
“People are still quite reasonable,” he added. “I trust certainly the club owners and presidents to be able to have a discussion.”
Infantino also said that the 2022 World Cup must be played in just 28 days even if it is expanded to 48 teams. That would likely require six games to be played on some days in order to fit the full 80-game format during the tighter schedule brought on by switching the tournament to Nov. 21 – Dec. 18 in Qatar.
FIFA will make a decision in March on whether to expand the tournament from 32 to 48 teams. European leagues, who are already set to lose peak weeks from their season, insist FIFA cannot have any more days from their November 2022 schedule.
Infantino told reporters at FIFA headquarters that “we cannot make [the tournament] longer.” He added that playing more games simultaneously “is not ideal.” With Qatar unable to host a 48-team event alone, Infantino acknowledges there’s only a “certainly small” chance of sharing the World Cup with neighbouring countries.