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FIFA Club World Cup

FIFA's new Club World Cup: Qualification, format & European club controversy

6:40 PM WAT 04/04/2019
Gianni Infantino Club World Cup
Club football is about to change on a global scale, but things will have to be worked out with some stakeholders expressing opposition

FIFA confirmed in March 2019 that they would be making big changes to the Club World Cup but their decision has not gone down well in all quarters.

Despite stern opposition from UEFA and European clubs the world governing body voted to expand the tournament to include more teams and there will also be scheduling alterations.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said that he was "extremely happy" with the decision though and believes that it will turn out to be a positive step for the global game.

"The world will see a real Club World Cup where the best teams in the world will compete for the crown of world champion," Infantino told reporters at the announcement.

"This is important because, of course, club football is evolving. It's moving at difference paces in different parts of the world and it is our duty and responsibility to make sure that we encourage professional club football all over the world.

"We want to have an exciting competition, we want to have a prestigious competition, we want to have an inclusive competition and we will have this starting in 2021."

So what exactly has been changed and why is there opposition? Goal brings you everything you need to know.


New Club World Cup format


From 2021 on the Club World Cup will feature 24 teams from six confederations, which is a significant increase of 17.

As well as the expansion in terms of participation FIFA has made the call to hold the tournament every four years instead of annually, which had previously been the case since 2005.

The decision was made by the FIFA Council in March 2019 at their annual meeting, which took place in Miami, Florida in the United States. The proposal passed by 25 votes to seven.

The 24 teams will be split into eight three-team groups and the winners of each group will qualify for the knockout stage, which will commence with a quarter-final phase. Every team will play at least two games with a maximum of five games for those who reach the final.

It will take place in June and July, during the same calendar slot that was reserved for the Confederations Cup, a competition which has been rendered defunct as part of the decision to expand the club tournament.


Which teams will compete in the new Club World Cup?


FIFA has yet to confirm the exact make up of the tournament but it is believed that they would like to see an allocation similar to that of the World Cup.

That means something along the lines of eight European teams, six from South America, three each from Africa, Asia and North/Central America and one from Oceania. The world governing body had reportedly wanted 12 European clubs but changed the allocation after opposition from UEFA.

Qualification for the competition has yet to be confirmed either but Reuters reported last year that it was likely to take into account teams' performances in contintental tournaments in the preceding four seasons. Each confederation will be allowed to decide the qualification process, according to Associated Press.

UEFA's representatives will probably be drawn from the winners of the Champions League (potentially runners-up too) and the winners of the Europa League. The CONMEBOL teams will be drawn from the most recent winners of the Copa Libertadores.

Naturally there will be emoluments for the clubs that are involved in the competition with reports suggesting each participant stands to earn £50 million ($65m) for taking part.


Why has there been controversy?


As mentioned there has been some controversy around the decision by FIFA to press ahead with the changes, principally from UEFA and Europe's clubs. The European members of the FIFA Council voted against the proposal but found themselves in the minority.

European opposition to the proposal is rooted in the view that the current international match calendar and competitions have been agreed up to 2024.

The European Club Association (ECA) immediately issued a letter in response to the FIFA proposal indicating that its members would boycott the tournament in 2021. The letter was signed by 15 members of the board, including representatives from Barcelona, Manchester United and Ajax.

A number of weeks after the move by FIFA, ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli, who is also the chairman of Serie A giants Juventus, subsequently reiterated their opposition at the association's general assembly at the end of March, expressing disapproval of the world governing body's behaviour on the matter.

"The main priority at this stage must be for stakeholders to engage in a detailed assessment of how the landscape of international football might evolve post-2024 prior to addressing specific competitions," said Agnelli. "FIFA’s decision to revamp its Club World Cup starting 2021 is one ECA cannot support."

Infantino has conceded that there were "different points of view" but, despite the threat of losing star attractions from Europe, remains positive in his assessment of the situation, stressing that discussions related to the nature of the competition are ongoing.

"We have the responsibility to take decisions for FIFA and we took the decision... FIFA has decided and we are moving on," said the defiant world governing body chief.

"There was a vote and UEFA didn't agree but UEFA understood the process we were going through. I understand the position of UEFA and Europe. The whole situation with the various stakeholders - the leagues, clubs and players' trade unions - is much more complicated than in other parts of the world.

"But we've taken up the dialogue again. We're in football, after all, and in football we're not waging war against each other, so I'm confident that with UEFA and all European clubs we can have fruitful cooperation in the future."