BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Thursday that companies had shown an interest in backing an expanded Club World Cup although he did not comment on reports that they had offered up to $25 billion for that and another proposed tournament.
Reports in the New York Times and Financial Times this week said a group of investors had offered the eye-watering amount to buy a revamped and enlarged Club World Cup and rights to a proposed global league for national teams..
They said investors from the United States, China, Japan, and the Middle East were among those discussing the proposals.
“For two years we have been talking about a Club World Cup with 24 teams, more inclusive and with more respect for the international calendar, with fewer games,” Infantino told reporters at the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) annual conference.
“We have studied it, we have spoken to the (FIFA decision-making) Council. We want to do something that people like... there are companies that are interested and that is a good sign that there is interest.
“The question is not if we have to do a more significant Club World Cub but rather why it hasn’t been done until now. It’s time to do it.”
The Club World Cup is an annual event in which seven clubs, usually continental champions, compete in a knock-out format.
An expanded version could have up to 24 teams but would be played every four years.
European soccer’s governing body UEFA said Infantino had mentioned an offer at a FIFA Council Meeting in Bogota last month.
“We can confirm that the FIFA president mentioned an alleged offer to buy some rights at the FIFA Council meeting in Bogota. UEFA said in a statement on Thursday.
“As Gianni Infantino did not provide any concrete details on what such an offer would entail and which entity would have been behind it, we have no comment to make on the topic.”
FIFA confirmed in November that it was studying ways of expanding UEFA’s new Nations League competition on a global scale. UEFA’s tournament, with teams divided into four divisions according to ranking, starts in September.
However, it is not clear how a new FIFA event would fit into the international football calendar, especially as powerful European clubs are already concerned about fixture congestion.
FIFA is recovering from a corruption scandal in 2015 which saw several dozen leading soccer officials indicted in the United States.
Infantino is looking to increase FIFA’s income to fulfil promises he made during his electoral campaign of greater funding for its 211 member associations.
FIFA has already decided to increase the World Cup from its current 32 teams to 48, starting with the 2026 tournament which will be staged either in Morocco or jointly by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
On Thursday, FIFA was handed a formal request from CONMEBOL for the new 48-team format to be brought forward to the 2022 tournament in Qatar.
Reporting by Ramiro Scandolo in Buenos Aires; additional reporting by Brenna Neghaiwi in Zurich and Brian Homewood in Bern, writing by Andrew Downie, editing by Ken Ferris