Fifa president Gianni Infantino has told Alibaba owner Jack Ma that China has a “big chance” of hosting the 2019 and 2020 editions of the new format of the Fifa Club World Cup, according to Chinese media reports.
The president of soccer’s global governing body spoke to Ma in an hour-long meeting in Moscow during the 2018 Fifa World Cup, Zhang Dazhong, chief executive of the Alibaba sports division told Chinese news outlet Xinhua.
Zhang was present at the meeting and said that “it was a very exciting dialogue between Chinese entrepreneurs and the president of world football's governing body.”
He added: “I believe that the Fifa Club World Cup is not far from China. It is very likely that the 2019 and 2020 tournaments will both go to China, although we still need to go through some procedures. Fifa supports China to host the Club World Cup and Fifa is also looking to expand the Club World Cup, which will be a great chance for China.”
Alibaba’s E-Auto offshoot signed a partnership agreement with Fifa three years ago, while Alibaba Cloud became the presenting partner of the Fifa Club World Cup in a five-year deal signed in 2017.
The future of the tournament remains uncertain, with Fifa said to be debating the launch of an expanded 24-team Club World Cup, which would be held every four years, starting in June 2021, as well as a Global Nations League that would conclude in an eight-team tournament held every two years.
Funding for the new Club World Cup is being put up by a consortium of investors led by Japan’s SoftBank and backed by the likes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In April, reports emerged that the investors had offered guaranteed revenues of US$25 billion in return for the rights to operate the Club World Cup and a new Global Nations League.
Infantino had been seeking approval for the plans before this year’s World Cup, which concluded in Russia on Sunday, but was forced to delay a vote in May with the decision reportedly due to resistance from European governing body Uefa.
Uefa is unhappy with the proposal, its chief concern being that Fifa’s new Club World Cup could have a detrimental impact on its hugely lucrative Champions League. Some domestic competitions, including the English Premier League, are also said to be firmly opposed to the idea.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosted the 2017 Club World Cup and the tournament is set to return there later this year.