COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Europe’s top football leagues are in “firm opposition” to FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s plans for two new international tournaments, the body representing them said on Thursday.
The European Leagues, which represents England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga among others, said they rejected proposals for an expanded Club World Cup and a new global Nations League in the first sign of a serious split in world football over the plans.
The organization called for a united front against the proposals in a statement issued on Thursday.
The statement urged European soccer’s governing body UEFA to ally with the World League Forum, the European Clubs Association and FIFPro (the International players union), to “firmly oppose and together stop this unilateral initiative from FIFA and the process which lacks of transparency and a proper consultation with the stakeholders.”
FIFA’s plans for the Club World Cup would involve expanding it to 24 teams — including 12 from Europe — and staging it every four years instead of annually as happens at present.
The Nations League would be a global version of the new competitions which are being introduced by UEFA in Europe and CONCACAF in North and Central American and the Caribbean.
In both cases, the competitions involve all the national teams in the respective continents who are divided into divisions based on their rankings.
There is promotion and relegation between the divisions, as in conventional domestic leagues.
Each division is sub-divided into groups with the winners qualifying for a knockout contest.
Infantino has said that he believes the deals together could be worth $25 billion in a 12-year cycle and has put his plans to FIFA’s Council saying they are backed by an, as yet unnamed, international consortium of investors.
Several national associations contacted by Reuters said they had not received any direct communication from FIFA on the plans.
European Leagues President Lars-Christer Olsson said the approach was reminiscent of FIFA’s problematic past.
“This process reminds me of the way the ‘old FIFA’ acted which I thought we had left behind. What we have experienced is a clear lack of consultation and transparency, and an intentional manipulation of the decision making structure by FIFA in presenting these proposals.
“To present a long-term 12 year plan with lots of uncertainty and a lack of information sounds, to me, like a ‘can of worms’,” he added.
Jesper Moller, a member of FIFA’s Organising Committee for FIFA Competitions and president of the Danish Football Federation, told Reuters no vote could be held on the plans without Infantino revealing the identity of the backers, who wish to take 49 percent ownership in the management of the new events.
“We want to see things and documentation. We have learned from the past. So now do it in a proper way,” he said.
In a recent letter to FIFA Council members, Infantino said the investors came from Asia, Europe and North America but said he was unable to provide details as he had signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Editing by Ossian Shine and Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar