FIFA’s plans for an expanded Club World Cup now have the backing of Europe’s clubs.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino first unveiled proposals for the new 32-team event prior to the World Cup final in Qatar last December. He said the new event would feature 12 European teams and be played every four years from 2025.
The game’s global governing body has been criticised by a domestic leagues group over a lack of consultation over the new Club World Cup, but the European Club Association (ECA) has now endorsed it, along with FIFA’s plans to introduce an annual match between the Champions League winners and the team which wins an intercontinental play-off tournament and a Women’s Club World Cup.
The ECA’s new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with FIFA runs until the end of 2030, also recognises ECA support for the new international match calendar approved by the FIFA Council earlier this month.
The MoU on the calendar is crucial to the functioning of the club-country relationship as it governs the release of players for international dates.
The World Cup club benefits programme, which compensates clubs for the release of players to compete in the tournament, will now total 355 million US dollars (£289.1m) for the 48-team 2026 and 2030 finals compared to 209m US dollars (£170.2m) for 2018 and 2022.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: “This is a significant day for the future of football and its long-term stability.
“We are very happy to renew and strengthen our co-operation agreement with ECA, an important stakeholder representing clubs from all over Europe.
“To have the new international match calendar endorsed by ECA provides the necessary balance between club and national team football.
“We have exciting projects ahead, including the new FIFA Club World Cup in 2025 and the new FIFA Women’s Club World Cup. A close collaboration with clubs in Europe, and the rest of the world, will be essential for the success of those events.”
ECA chairman Nasser Al Khelaifi said: “The MoU recognises the central role of clubs in football globally and ensures that they are properly represented in decision-making around issues which affect them.
“FIFA and ECA will also now establish closer working practices on a future revamped Club World Cup, including the sporting and commercial aspects for the 2025 edition, and working together on future editions including on potential structures for managing the commercial rights going forward.”
The World Leagues Forum (WLF) – which includes England’s Premier League among its members – criticised FIFA earlier this month over a lack of consultation on the calendar.
A WLF statement from March 15 read: “FIFA’s decisions, including the expansion of the 2026 World Cup and the new versions of the Club World Cup, further crowd an already-overloaded calendar and fail to consider the impact on domestic league competitiveness and player welfare.”