FIFA to go ahead with Club World Cup revamp despite opposition from Europe's top clubs

Gareth Bale celebrates scoring Real Madrid's second goal during the Club World Cup semi-final clash against Kashima Antlers.
Image: Real Madrid won the 2018 Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates

The FIFA Council has agreed to introduce a pilot tournament of an enlarged 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 despite opposition from Europe's top clubs.

It will replace the current seven-team annual Club World Cup, which is currently played in December, with an expanded quadrennial version in June-July 2021.

Friday's announcement was made by FIFA President Gianni Infantino despite a letter from Europe's elite clubs telling him they will not take part in the competition.

The letter was signed by Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, Celtic's Peter Lawwell and the bosses of Ajax, Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG on Tuesday.

Asked if he was concerned about the prospect of FIFA staging a new Club World Cup in 2021 without any of Europe's elite clubs, Infantino said: "We hope that all the best teams will participate and we've had some very positive discussions
with UEFA.

"But today it was our responsibility to take a decision because we have to deal with the organisational matters - it is only two years away."

Infantino added he was "extremely happy" at the council backing his plan to stage the new tournament in the slot previously scheduled for the traditional World Cup warm-up event, the Confederations Cup, from June 17 to July 4.

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"Now the world will see a real Club World Cup where fans will see the best teams in the world compete to be crowned the real world champions," he said.

"Club football is evolving at a different pace in different parts of the world and we want to have an exciting, prestigious and inclusive competition, and we'll have that with this Club World Cup, starting in 2021."

Meanwhile, on the international stage, Infantino believes a 48-team World Cup in 2022 in Qatar is "feasible", adding that FIFA would continue to study the options.

"If it happens - fantastic. If it doesn't happen - fantastic also," he added.

No decision will be made on expanding that tournament, with possible additional host nations, until June, Infantino said.

The FIFA Council has also decided to use VAR at June's Women's World Cup in France.

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