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‘Fewer teams, less tournaments but no Super League’ – FIFA president Infantino on coronavirus reform

11:26 GMT 23/03/2020
Gianni Infantino FIFA UEFA
The head of world football’s governing body admits that Covid-19 may lead to notable changes at the very highest level of the game

The coronavirus pandemic could lead to sweeping change in football, admits FIFA president Gianni Infantino, with measures possibly introduced to have “less tournaments, fewer teams and less games”.

Competitive sport has shut down around the world as authorities seek to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Football has been hit hard, with leading figures from within the game having contracted the disease while schedules across the board have been forced into a state of indefinite postponement.

Playing current campaigns to a finish is going to prove tricky, while fitting events such as the rescheduled Euro 2020 and Copa America tournaments into an already packed calendar will be tough.

FIFA was also planning to introduce a 24-team Club World Cup from 2021, while there are domestic and continental competitions to complete as silverware remains up for grabs.

Infantino concedes that the demands placed on those at the very highest level may have to be reined in, with the FIFA boss telling Gazzetta dello Sport when discussing finances in football: “An assessment of the global economic impact is needed. It’s difficult right now, we don’t know when it will return to normal.

“But we look at the opportunities. We can perhaps reform world football by taking a step back. With different formats. Less tournaments, but more interesting. Maybe fewer teams, but more balanced. Less games, to protect the health of the players, but more competitive.

“It’s not science fiction, let’s talk about it. We quantify the damages, let’s see how we can cover them, we have to make sacrifices. The ones who managed their ‘company’ in a healthy way, will benefit – then we start again.

“Not from scratch, we are privileged. But let’s all save football together, from a crisis that risks being irreversible.”

While happy to talk of “reform”, Infantino is adamant that a European Super League, which has been mooted for some time, is not part of his plans.

He added: “It makes me laugh.

“And what else? From what I see, others are already planning and organising tournaments around the world, outside the institutional structures, and without respect for how domestic, continental and world football is organised.

“In the future we must have a least 50 national sides that can win the World Cup, not just eight in Europe and two in South America.

“We need 50 clubs that can win the Club World Cup, not just five or six European ones. And 20 of these 50 will be European, which seems better than today’s five or six. But it’s not the right time to talk about this now.”

In the present, the world as a whole is focused on working through a global health scare, with sport having to take a back seat.

Infantino said: “Health comes first, then everything else.

“For the managers, the rest means hoping for the best but also preparing for the worst.

“Without panicking, let’s say it clearly: we will play again when we can do it without putting anyone’s health at risk.

“Federations and leagues are ready to follow the recommendations of the governments and WHO [World Health Organisation]. I thank the doctors, nurses and all those who risk their lives to save others. They are heroes.”