Fifa poised to call vote on $25bn shake-up of world football

Fifa is preparing to call a vote on a $25bn proposal that promises a huge windfall for football clubs and national teams should they agree to reshape the sport with two new global tournaments.

The radical plan is being led by Gianni Infantino, the president of world football’s scandal-tainted governing body, who has been in secret talks with investors that include Japan’s SoftBank.

The proposal offers the tantalising prospect of the world’s top clubs competing for almost $2bn every four years — an offer that has in recent days secured the support of sides including Real Madrid and FC Barcelona — as well as a new league for national sides.

But the concept faces stiff opposition from certain corners, including from football’s European governing body Uefa, which views the move as a threat to the primacy of its lucrative Champions League club tournament, in which €1.3bn a year is shared among competing sides.

Mr Infantino will in coming days notify Fifa’s ruling council of a special meeting at which a decision can be made before the upcoming World Cup in Russia, according to several people involved in the situation.

In a private letter distributed in recent weeks to Fifa members and seen by the Financial Times, Mr Infantino spells out the proposal from the consortium, which has promised to inject $25bn into a Fifa-controlled joint venture that would run a revamped Club World Cup and “Nations League”.

Mr Infantino described the investors in the consortium, which would own 49 per cent of the joint venture, as “among the world’s most solid investors”, and said they represented “major interests and multinationals in Asia, Europe and North America”.

Citing non-disclosure agreements, the Fifa head has so far refused to reveal the consortium’s participants but their identities will be divulged at the meeting, according to two people with direct knowledge of the plans.

The consortium is being assembled by Centricus, a UK-based group whose founders helped SoftBank raise funds to create its $100bn Vision Fund, people close to the matter previously told the FT

The consortium’s proposal envisages the expansion of the “Club World Cup”, a tournament currently played with seven top teams from across the globe, into a 24-strong tournament to be played in June every four years from 2021. The consortium will guarantee $12bn in funding for four editions until 2033.

At each of the first four tournaments, $1.9bn will be available as prize money to the clubs, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. They said $450m would be available for the running costs of the tournament and a further $600m in “solidarity” payments — financial support to football confederations, national organisations and smaller clubs.

In recent days Fifa has held discussions about the format and structure of the Club World Cup, with a preference for clubs from Europe, which hosts the world’s best-known leagues, to make up half the 24 entrants in an effort to enhance the tournament’s appeal to global broadcasters.

These could include the most recent winners of the Uefa Champions League and Europa League tournaments, or be selected from ranking clubs according to people close to the talks.

Also proposed is a new international league competition for national teams, promising a total of $13bn up until 2033.

A further $1bn has been promised towards the “digital transformation” of Fifa. Discussions have also begun over creating an “over the top” service, through which the organisation could screen matches on the internet, although two people familiar with the talks warned these talks were at the very early stages.

Uefa is holding a meeting on Wednesday with representatives of European clubs, leagues and players where it will discuss the proposals, after which it is likely to take a public stance.

A senior executive close to Uefa’s leadership said there was growing anger that Fifa had failed to provide further details about the consortium’s proposals.

“Football, by and large, needs consensus and needs people to be happy with it,” the person said. “To do things against certain big stakeholders . . . is a dangerous road.”

Last week the World Leagues Forum, a body that represents national league competitions such as the English Premier League, said it would “vigorously” oppose any proposal that would add fixtures to a congested calendar.

Fifa insists the tournaments would reduce the amount of matches played each year. The Club World Cup would take place during the time allocated for the quadrennial “Confederations Cup” tournament, which would be abolished, while Nations League matches would replace dates allocated for “friendly” matches between national teams.

“We believe that this offer is an excellent opportunity for the confederations and the member associations as well as for football in general,” Mr Infantino said in the letter. “Fifa has no particular interest other than having a responsibility and duty to present it to all of you.”

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