Football: Fifa pushes on with new Club World Cup amid commercial interest

Flamengo players during a training session in Doha on Dec 19, ahead of their Dec 21 Fifa Club World Cup final against Liverpool. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DOHA (REUTERS) - Fifa has received nine bids for the commercial rights to the new expanded 24-team Club World Cup and plans to press ahead with the tournament despite concerns about global football's overcrowded schedule.

The first edition of the new format is set to be held in China in 2021.

"Up until yesterday, we had nine offers, which is more than I expected. It shows there is great commercial interest," Fifa president Gianni Infantino told reporters on Friday (Dec 20).

The rights packages will allow companies to secure sponsorship, advertising and television broadcast and media deals on behalf of Fifa.

The current seven-team Club World Cup, consisting of the champions of the continental confederations, concludes on Saturday with the final between European champions Liverpool and Brazil's Flamengo.

The Club World Cup has traditionally struggled to gain status in Europe, but Infantino expects the new format to attract a significant increase in commercial and fan interest.

"We made a big decision, an important decision that the Club World Cup will become the best (club) Cup competition in the world. Whatever Fifa is doing has to be the best," he said.

The plan for 2021, however, has faced opposition from European clubs, who say there is no room in the current international calendar.

The tournament is also scheduled for the same period as the Africa Cup of Nations, raising a possible conflict for African players.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp this week urged authorities to look at the overall schedule of games, saying: "You cannot just add on tournaments, that doesn't work."

Infantino, while noting that the Confederations Cup national team tournament has been ended, said he agreed with Klopp that a full look at the global schedule needed to take place.

"I think Jurgen is right, I think this is a little bit the sentiment of all the people that I talk to. But how is the solution to look like? It differs depending on who you speak to. Our role at Fifa is to foster this discussion," he said.

The Fifa president said the new tournament was a logical response to the growth of the game internationally and the desire of clubs to be global brands.

"Today we have maybe 10-12 clubs and they are up there and they are all maybe in Europe. If you want to develop football all over the world, you need to be looking at 50 clubs that people around the world can identify with.

"We need to think what kind of platforms we can give them. The new Club World Cup is certainly one that goes in that direction," he said.

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