Premier League giants Manchester United and Liverpool are among the top European clubs set to be invited to participate in a revamped and expanded Fifa Club World Cup, The Times reports.
Fifa is said to be pushing ahead with a contentious plan to establish a new international tournament that would replace its existing seven-team annual event with a 24-team event held every four years, starting in June 2021.
Under the proposal, Fifa plans to invite at least 12 clubs from Europe to take part, with sides who have won at least three Uefa Champions Leagues or European Cups given preference, according to The Times.
That criteria would put Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Ajax and Inter Milan in line for a place, as well as Italian club Juventus, who have claimed two European Cups and two Intercontinental titles.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino has apparently held discussions with representatives from some of the European heavyweights despite strong opposition from his former employers at Uefa, European soccer’s governing body.
Uefa is reported to be 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.
It is reported that Fifa’s proposal would see the 24 participating clubs split US$2 billion in prize money, with each club earning a minimum of UK£50 million (US$67.4 million) and the champion pocketing as much as UK£100 million (US$134.8 million). It is not clear which clubs from other continents might be invited to take part.
Funding for the new tournament 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. Last month, 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.
The Times’ Martyn Ziegler reports that China have already thrown its hat into the ring to stage the inaugural edition of the Club World Cup in 2021.
Ziegler reports that Infantino, who has already pushed through an expansion of the Fifa World Cup to 48 teams from 2026, is keen to secure an agreement on the Club World Cup before this summer’s World Cup kicks off in Russia on 14th June. He adds that the Swiss is expected to call an emergency Fifa Council meeting in early June in a bid to get the green light.