Infantino calls for rare Fifa meeting amid $33 billion offer

Fifa president Gianni Infantino speaks during the 38th Conmebol Council meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 12, 2018.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino speaks during the 38th Conmebol Council meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on April 12, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • Fifa president Gianni Infantino has called for an emergency meeting of the leading world football officials to address a US$25 billion (S$33 billion) rights offer from an investment group that could radically change some of the biggest competitions in the sport.

In a letter sent to members of the governing Fifa Council last week, he requested for a special meeting with leaders of its six regional bodies as soon as this week.

The get-together will discuss new details of the offer for control of a new quadrennial 24-team club tournament and a proposed league for national teams, which would replace the Confederations Cup.

Unlike the annual seven-team Club World Cup, the global championship will have half the participants drawn from Europe, including the finalists from the past four editions of the Champions League.

Infantino first disclosed the negotiations to Fifa's board at a fractious meeting last month, but has so far been blocked from moving ahead with a deal that he said had to be signed within 60 days.

The impasse in part has occurred as he declined to identify the members of the international consortium, citing a non-disclosure agreement, and also because of concerns that the proposed event could compete with existing tournaments.

It later emerged that one of the proposed investors is SoftBank, the Japan-based financial institution that runs the world's biggest technology investment fund. The other investors are from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

The full Fifa Council is expected to address the offer during an extraordinary meeting early next month.

"A meeting with the confederations will take place in due course but no date has been set yet," said a Fifa spokesman. "Further consultation is also ongoing with different stakeholders on potential changes to the Fifa Club World Cup."

Emergency meetings are rare and reserved for the most vital matters but Infantino's rationale for the urgent meeting is two-fold.

He wants to persuade sceptical officials to allow him to forge ahead with negotiations. The 48-year-old also seeks to calm some members who are angry over what they see as his aggressive pursuit of a deal that would lead to the biggest restructuring in football in several decades.

Opposition from Uefa, European football's governing body, and the continent's biggest clubs remains strong as the creation of a significant competitor to the Champions League could cause upheaval.

Confederations in Asia and the Americas, however, appear to be largely supportive of the idea.

NYTIMES, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'Infantino calls for rare Fifa meeting amid $33 billion offer'. Print Edition | Subscribe