By Simon Evans
(Reuters) – UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin criticised his FIFA counterpart Gianni Infantino’s plans to create two new tournaments as “highly cynical and ruthless mercantilism” and accused the global body of selling the soul of the game.
After bodies representing European clubs and leagues came out against the plan, Ceferin’s speech at the European Union in Brussels indicates a serious rift between Infantino and the European game.
Infantino, previously UEFA’s General Secretary, has proposed staging what would effectively be a mini-World Cup. It would feature eight international teams and take place every two years in addition to the traditional event.
The ‘Final Eight’ would be the conclusion to a ‘Global Nations League’ while the FIFA president also wants to see an expanded Club World Cup with 24 teams as part of a package which he says unnamed investors are willing to invest $25 billion over 12 years.
In an address to the Council of European Union Sports Ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, Ceferin said: “As long as I am UEFA President there will be no room for pursuing selfish endeavours or hiding behind false pretences.
“I cannot accept that some people who are blinded by the pursuit of profit are considering to sell the soul of football tournaments to nebulous private funds.
“Money does not rule – and the European sports model must be respected. Football is not for sale. I will not let anyone sacrifice its structures on the altar of a highly cynical and ruthless mercantilism.”
Ceferin said that the game needed to address the concentration of wealth among a small group of clubs because it “threatens the competitive balance that is essential to football’s appeal”.
“We are ready to take action to enhance competitive balance … There is an urgent need to act and respond before it is too late.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar)