October 26, 2018 / 11:26 AM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 4-Soccer-FIFA set up task force over new tournament plans

* Infantino puts controversial changes on hold

* President declines to reveal who is funding new events

* UEFA had been against expanded Club World Cup

* (Adds quote on funding, change of CAF Cup date)

By Clement Uwiringiyimana

KIGALI, Oct 26 (Reuters) - FIFA have set up a task force to examine president Gianni Infantino’s plans for a new Club World Cup and Global Nations League, avoiding a damaging split with UEFA over the controversial proposals.

Infantino told a news conference that the task force would present its findings at a council meeting in Miami on March 14.

“On the topic that heated some of the media, we have taken a decision to create a task force at least,” said Infantino, who had intended to put his plans to a vote on Friday.

“We have taken a decision to establish a task force to bolster the consultation process, the prospects of a revamped FIFA Club World Cup and worldwide Nations League, to discuss and make concrete proposals,” Infantino said.

Infantino’s plans had been opposed by the World Leagues Forum and the European Leagues, representing the top club competitions internationally, who had urged the FIFA chief to step back from a quick vote.

European governing body UEFA had also been vocal in criticising the plans after details emerged in May, raising the prospect of a split in the global game.

Infantino said the task force would “work on details of these competitions which are of high interest in many parts of the world where some agree, others disagree”.

“There are different points of views, different opinions; it’s perfectly normal,” Infantino said, adding that he welcomed proposals and ideas for the tournaments.

Infantino has said that his plans are backed by an investment consortium willing to put in $25 billion over a 12-year cycle in return for 49 percent ownership of the competitions.

The FIFA president has said that he is not able to reveal the identity of the backers due to a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) but several unconfirmed media reports say that Japan’s SoftBank are behind the consortium.

ANNUAL COMPETITION IDEA

Other unconfirmed reports suggested that Saudi Arabian funds might be part of the package.

Asked about the backers, Infantino said: “It is not a fund, you don’t ask the name, it’s good but it’s not a fund it’s a company. Just wanted to clarify that”.

“There is no sovereign fund involved or state involved. It is a private company it has been mentioned before. We need first as well to see what kind of competition we have and then we move forward,” he added.

Infantino’s plans for the Club World Cup have included holding the tournament every four years with 24 teams and also an idea for an annual competition.

The Nations League format began under UEFA’s auspices in Europe in September while CONCACAF, in North and Central America and the Caribbean, has also begun a Nations League tournament.

Infantino’s idea is for a ‘Final Eight’ tournament bringing together the winners of various continental Nations League competitions.

“Two confederations already have Nations League, for which rights are already sold, in particular when it comes to Europe until 2022. But others don’t,” said the FIFA president.

“But there are certainly ways and possibilities to look into seeing what can be done maybe already in other parts... or maybe the whole world after 2022. We are open to every idea and every proposal.”

In other decisions, the council ruled against allowing Spanish clubs Barcelona and Girona to play an official La Liga game in Miami in January.

FIFA also endorsed the South American confederation CONMEBOL’s proposal to switch their Copa America competition to even years, meaning the planned 2019 tournament will now be delayed a year.

The Copa America will now be held every four years in line with UEFA’s European Championship.

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations was also formally moved from January/February to June/July of that year.

The Council backed proposals from its stakeholders’ committee for changes to the player transfer system, including limiting loans of players and new regulations on players’ agents.

FIFA also announced that participants in the Women’s World Cup will receive increased support and prize money. ) (Writing by Simon Evans; editing by Clare Fallon)

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