“Biggest and best” Gianni Infantino is determined to make his new, expanded Club World Cup “the best club competition in the world” as well as the most lucrative, as he revealed that FIFA have had nine offers to buy the commercial rights to the tournament.
The president of world football’s governing body is in Qatar for the final of this year’s Club World Cup, with Liverpool facing Flamengo on Saturday in what will be the penultimate edition of the tournament in its current format.
It will return here next year, before a new, 24-team tournament begins in June and July 2021, with China having already been awarded hosting rights.
“I want the Club World Cup to be the best in terms of quality on the pitch but also in terms of revenues,” Infantino told journalists in Doha on Friday, adding: “Whatever FIFA is doing has to be the best, that’s clear.”
While the existing Club World Cup features only the six continental champions as well as the champions of the host nation, the new event will see many of the biggest sides in the world — including eight from Europe — descend on China for the first edition.
The FIFA chief previously claimed that the expanded competition could generate as much as $50 billion in revenue.
He believes the added depth, combined with the fact the competition will now be played at the end of the European club season, makes it an irresistible prospect for bidders.
“It will be in June when traditionally we have World Cups, so the conditions I think will be optimal,” he said.
“We are commercialising the competition now and up to yesterday (Thursday) we had nine offers that were much more interesting than what I had thought, so that shows there is a big commercial interest.”
A larger Club World Cup raises the prospect of more match-ups like Saturday’s final, for which a huge Brazilian contingent is in Qatar.
“When you see 15-18,000 Flamengo fans here, and we will have 30,000 Egyptians here to see (Mohamed) Salah, that shows the level of interest.
“It is going to be a beautiful and very successful competition on the sporting side, and economically.”
– Expanded pool of elite clubs –
There are many issues raised by the introduction of such a new tournament, not least the already bloated match calendar.
The inaugural edition is also set to clash with the next Africa Cup of Nations, a competition that was recently moved from January-February to June and July to avoid clashing with the European club season.
However, the new Club World Cup will only be held every four years and replaces the Confederations Cup.
The 49-year-old said he accepted concerns about the amount of football being played, but defended FIFA’s need to “foster discussions to see how we can make the game better”.
He recently made the same defence amid reports he was backing a proposed breakaway Super League, but on Friday Infantino admitted he wanted to expand the number of clubs who could become major global names.
“Today we have 10 to 12 clubs who are up there, and they are all in four or five countries in Europe,” he said, before hinting at a possible move towards a larger, closed elite.
“If you want to develop football in the world, then we need to have the ambition and the objective to have 50 clubs around the world who people can identify themselves with, and we have to think about what kind of platforms and competitions we can give them.
“The new Club World Cup is certainly one that goes in that direction.
“If we can pay and generate more revenues for the big clubs — the 10 to 12, or 15 to 20 Europeans, but also 30 around the world — then you have done something good.”
Infantino also recently proposed the idea of a pan-African league, and on Friday he confirmed plans for a women’s Club World Cup were “a work in progress”.