On the eve of the last match of the FIFA calendar in 2019 — the final of the FIFA Club World Cup — FIFA president Gianni Infantino provided his views on the tournament, Qatar’s readiness for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the future of world football competitions, starting with the first edition of the new FIFA Club World Cup to be played in China in 2021.
Club football around the world:
“The one thing I know is that I have been speaking to many people, representing many different interests, and no one seems to be really happy with the way things are right now: with the system, the match calendar… People complain about how national leagues tend to be predictable, how most of the national team games are not interesting enough, how there are too many games being played… If we want to reach a solution to any of this, we must discuss. We must debate. And I feel that, as FIFA President, it is my role to foster such debate.
The fact is that football is changing: until 50 years ago, it was strictly national; then came the continental component, which only grew stronger; now clubs are global forces, with interests around the world. Today, we have 10 or 12 clubs from five European countries that are at a certain level, and the rest of the whole world is far, far behind.
My vision is that we should have, say, 50 clubs from all continents that are more or less at the same level; that people from all continents can truly relate to the way they do to these few European clubs today. If we want to develop football around the whole world — and this is FIFA’s mission — we must think about this.
What is the best way to implement it? This is what we need to discuss. The new Club World Cup is certainly a new platform for that, and we are already seeing signs of an enormous interest in it. FIFA has put out a Request For Proposal for companies wishing to work with us on the new tournament: 16 companies expressed interest and we received nine proposals, which we are now assessing. These are businesses interested in being partners of what will be the best club tournament in the world — a tournament entirely owned by FIFA, including intellectual properties.
The bottom line is that we must look into solutions. We must sit down to discuss all the different interests and to adapt the International Match Calendar as necessary. So far, all football has done historically has been to add more matches and more tournaments. But football is not a first come, first serve endeavour, about which we can say that it is simply fully booked. We must be open to rethink the concept of how global football is structured.”
Qatar as a host:
“I am very happy with what I have seen during the Club World Cup so far and with the stage of the preparations for 2022. The Club World Cup is an important test for a few of the elements that will be place at the World Cup, but the truth is that the level of readiness is there for all to see. I have been organising big football tournaments for 20 years and I must say that the state of advancement of the works in Qatar is unparalleled — I have never seen a host country in the position to deliver every single infrastructure work two years prior to the event, which is what Qatar is on track to doing. I am sure that it will be a fantastic event and I believe that a World Cup in Qatar, in the Middle East, will have the ability to change the perception of the rest of the world towards the region.”
“With France 2019, we had more than 1 billion viewers around the world and some incredible figures in countries where normally women’s football is not anywhere close to the men’s game, such as Italy, Brazil or England. This tremendous success triggered a few proposals, on which we are already working. Besides, (French Football Federation) president (Noël) Le Graët came up with a proposal that went a bit unnoticed: of playing the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ every two years instead of four. This would generate benefits and momentum that fit exactly with what the women’s game needs right now. It is something we should put up for discussion.”