UEFA will escalate their battle with FIFA for control of the international calendar by endorsing a new tournament that would compete for attention with the Club World Cup next year.
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European football’s governing body are in advanced talks about backing a new Champions League-style competition that is the brainchild of American promoters Relevent Sports.
The tournament would essentially be an expansion of the International Champions Cup, a pre-season competition for Europe’s top clubs that has been run by Relevent since 2013.
But UEFA’s endorsement would transform a series of exhibition games into a major tournament and present a threat to FIFA’s plans for a revamped Club World Cup contested by 24 sides.
Sources familiar with a project that has already been pitched to several Premier League clubs describe the proposals as game-changing for the international calendar.
A working committee has been set up comprising representatives of the top clubs to establish the finer details, such as the number of teams and countries to be involved.
But while it is yet to be formalised, UEFA’s involvement appears to be a significant step.
Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal have played in the International Champions Cup in recent years and are keen to be involved, with an annual tournament giving them guaranteed revenue and an opportunity to expand in key growth markets such as the United States and Asia.
The additional income could also help Premier League clubs resist the growing pressure to expand the Champions League by adding four extra games to the group stage, which would put major strain on the domestic schedule.
The creation of a new UEFA-branded summer competition in 2021 would put Europe’s governing body on a collision course with FIFA, whose Club World Cup takes place in Shanghai in June and July next year.
That tournament is scheduled to happen every four years and feature 24 teams, but just 12 from Europe including two from England, so the new competition would bring greater benefits to more clubs.
The new Club World Cup has run into problems before it has started, with FIFA struggling to raise the £650million needed to fund running costs and provide prizemoney for the clubs.
A tender process launched by FIFA last December ‘to invite various commercial and investment proposals’ failed to bring in any backers and last month the world governing body appointed American private equity firm The Raine Group to lead a fresh search for funding.
In another potential complication, a number of clubs are believed to have demanded an equity share in the Club World Cup, which FIFA are unwilling to grant.
Much of the rivalry between UEFA and FIFA stems from the personal enmity between their respective presidents, Aleksander Ceferin and Gianni Infantino.
This ill-feeling was much in evidence at the UEFA Congress in Amsterdam this week, with Ceferin using his keynote speech to make a veiled attack on Infantino’s supposed ego.