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.
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.
UEFA are poised to back a new summer Champions League-style pre-season tourament
The tournament would essentially be an expansion of the International Champions Cup
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.
Sportsmail has been given details of the planned competition, which would contain new elements including:
- Endorsement by UEFA, who have indicated their willingness to lend their branding and logo to the tournament, although they would not take responsibility for running it.
- Participation to be determined via a qualification process based on domestic league position, rather than by the current system of invitation. It is hoped this change would increase its prestige.
- An eight-year agreement for an annual event which would initially be held in the United States but could be staged in Asia in subsequent years.
- A group format with pools of three teams followed by a knockout stage.
- A commitment by all competing clubs to field their first-choice squads where possible.
- A 2021 start date, with Relevent Sports to provide funding for the initial competition in the anticipation of securing lucrative broadcast deals, which would make it profitable.
- The possibility of expansion to include teams from South America. That development became more likely when UEFA signed a memorandum of understanding with South American confederation Conmebol pledging greater co-operation last month.
UEFA’s endorsement would transform a series of exhibition games into a major tournament
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.
Tottenham and other English sides have competed in the International Champions Cup before
Along with Spurs, Arsenal, City, United, Liverpool and Chelsea are all keen on the proposals
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.
The creation of a new UEFA-branded summer tournament would rival FIFA’s Club World Cup
FIFA chief Gianni Infantino is struggling to raise the £650m needed to fund Club World Cup
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.