Sports News

Football must innovate after pandemic, says Real Madrid President Perez

MADRID (Reuters) - Football must embrace change to remain attractive to fans following the coronavirus pandemic, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Real Madrid unveil Reinier - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - February 18, 2020 Real Madrid president Florentino Perez during the press conference REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

Alluding to reform of domestic and international competitions without giving concrete details, Perez said Real Madrid would be one of the driving forces in changes to football as they were when the European Cup was created in the 1950s.

“Nothing will be like it was before. The pandemic obliges us to make football more competitive. We must innovate and look for formulas to ensure football remains attractive,” Perez said at Real’s annual general assembly.

“Real Madrid played a part in the foundation of FIFA and the European Cup and the current model needs a reboot, as the impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated. Football needs new momentum and Real Madrid will be right there at the heart of it.”

Perez’s words echoed those of FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who said this year that there should be fewer, more interesting tournaments and fewer, more competitive matches to safeguard the health of players.

Infantino has led the reform and expansion of FIFA’s Club World Cup which was due to take place in 2021 in China but has been put on hold due to the pandemic.

Perez, meanwhile, is reported to be one of the main proponents of a breakaway European league, according to British newspaper The Times and La Liga President Javier Tebas.

The Real Madrid chief also said the current number of matches was negatively affecting players through increased injuries and was attracting less interest from supporters.

Liverpool coach Juergen Klopp has been one of the leading critical voices on the effect on players of the congested calendar, which has been further squeezed by the pandemic.

Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman, who like Klopp has lost a number of key players to injury this season, has said the schedule is “killing” footballers.

“Everyone is advocating reform in world football. There is over saturation and fans, who are the most important ones, are suffering,” Perez said.

“There’s also consequences for footballers with injuries. Football’s reform cannot wait. The biggest clubs in Europe have millions of fans and they cannot turn their back on them.”

Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond