MIAMI – FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced on Friday that it was "possible" to extend the 2022 World Cup, but that any such project will have to be approved by the FIFA Congress in June.
Infantino also said that the FIFA Council voted to revamp the Club World Cup with the participation of 24 teams in a tournament to be held in June and July 2021.
FIFA had already approved a 48-team World Cup in 2026, but this edition of the tournament features Canada, Mexico and the United States engaged in a voluntary partnership. The Infantino campaign to develop the 2022 edition is imposed on the host country Qatar and will require major changes in its plan.
But Infantino highlighted a FIFA feasibility study that says the extended format is possible for 2022, provided that Qatar uses a regional partner to provide two to four additional stadiums needed to accommodate the extra matches needed. The study identified sites that could be used in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but said that Qatar should approve the countries with which it would associate.
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"I think that as FIFA, we have a duty to take care of that," said Infantino about the potential World Cup enlargement. "We have consulted all our associations, 90% of course are in favor of an increase.But it is not that simple.We can not just take [a] simple decision. We need to analyze these issues very carefully. We are working very closely with Qatar to see what proposals can be made.
"What is clear is that if we were to move to 48 teams and we would decide in June, some games should be organized by neighboring countries of Qatar, and together with our partners in Qatar, we will eventually present a proposal in this respect ".
The suggestion is complicated by the current geopolitical situation in the region, where Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are currently engaged in a Qatari economic embargo.
"We know the situation in the Gulf region, but we are in the lucky position of being in football and in football, we can only care about football," said Infantino. "I've been very happy with Qatar's reaction – it's the first time this idea has been communicated to them because they were open to this idea … If that happens, fantastic." This is not the case, fantastic too.At least I have not regretted not having analyzed this issue.
"Then we'll move on to the next step, we'll explore the possibility of some of the games in the Gulf region, and if we draw conclusions in June, we'll make a proposal to the council and of course the convention."
Infantino has shown itself to be more effective in the new Club World Cup, saying that the current seven-team competition, held annually in December, will be replaced by a 24-team event. A "pilot edition" will be held in June 2021. It will replace the Confederations Cup of the FIFA calendar.
"From now on, the world will see a real Club World Cup, during which the best clubs in the world will compete to crown the world champion," said Infantino. "It's important today because club football is evolving, evolving at a different pace in different parts of the world and it's our job to make sure we encourage professional club football around the world. better than a real football club, not a competition like the one we currently have.We want an exciting competition, we want a prestigious competition, we want an inclusive competition and we will have it in the new FIFA World Cup. Clubs from 2021. "
This announcement faces considerable opposition from European clubs. Earlier Friday, a letter from the president of the European Club Association, Andrea Agnelli, president of Serie A of Juventus, was published in the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung. stating that he will boycott the competition. The letter was signed by 15 members of ECA's Board of Directors, including officials from Barcelona, Manchester United and Ajax.
The signatories expressed "strong opposition to any endorsement of a revised Club World Cup for the time being and confirm that no ECA club would participate in such a competition".
The CEC added that any discussion on a new competition must be accompanied by the approval of a new framework for the schedule of FIFA's international matches after 2024.
And after hearing the announcement of Infantino on Friday, ECA announced in a statement that its clubs would not participate in 2021.
"ECA clubs will not participate in the CWC 2021 and will evaluate their participation in the editions of the competition after, "read the statement.
But Infantino is not discouraged.
"We hope all the top teams will participate," he said. "We have had positive and constructive discussions and we will continue in this way … We will continue our discussions, but today we have the responsibility to make a decision and to deal with organizational matters."
Infantino also reviewed the organization of the next Women's World Cup, saying the preparations were going well. He added that VAR will be used in the tournament, "as we did for the Men's World Cup".