January 20, 2020 / 11:05 PM / a month ago

New Club World Cup threatens soccer ecosystem - La Liga chief

LONDON (Reuters) - La Liga president Javier Tebas has warned that FIFA’s launch of a revamped and expanded Club World Cup in 2021 could trigger a damaging impact on domestic leagues.

FILE PHOTO: President of La Liga Javier Tebas attends the premiere of the Cirque du Soleil's "Messi10" show in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Albert Gea

Tebas also urged European football bodies to work together to redistribute their vast riches for the greater good of the sport, warning of the danger of a small group of elite clubs growing ever richer.

Led by its president Gianni Infantino, FIFA has decided to alter the format of its annual Club World Cup from next year, turning it from a seven-team tournament between regional champions into a 24-team event in China in June and July 2021.

The new-look Club World Cup will be staged once every four years, although Tebas believes FIFA, supported by major clubs, will try to hold the event every two years.

“We had a balance, an ecosystem between the different leagues in Europe and other continents, and now we have an intruder which might disrupt that balance,” Tebas told reporters in London at the launch of La Liga’s television channel.

“FIFA is supposed to be a regulatory body. But they have shifted from arranging calendars and organising World Cups to talking about having a Club World Cup every two years. That would change the status quo. We can’t let that happen.”

The organisation has not announced how much money the revamped competition will generate although Infantino said it had received nine offers for its commercial rights.

But Tebas believes FIFA has not considered the effect the tournament’s prize money might have on distorting the competitive balance in national leagues.

“FIFA have been talking about distribution of the revenue but haven’t discussed the impact this would have in different countries,” he said.

“Let’s imagine the two teams from Argentina (Boca Juniors and River Plate are expected to take part) get 40 or 50 million dollars from the tournament. This would have a significant impact on their domestic league.”

FIFA did not want to comment on Tebas’s remarks when contacted by Reuters.

Tebas, president of La Liga since 2013, also said national associations should guard against the bulk of extra revenues ending up in the hands of footballers and spoke of the importance of smaller leagues being strong financially.

This year’s Deloitte Money League showed Barcelona earned 840 million euros ($931.64 million) in revenue last season, over four times the amount received by league champions Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands, 199m), Benfica (Portugal, 197m) or Zenit St Petersburg (Russia, 180m).

“The major clubs share most of their revenue among their players so they can buy more Ferraris or Lamborghinis,” he added.

“We won’t be helping football if the wealth we generate goes straight to the big clubs. If leagues in places such as eastern Europe or Greece have financial problems it will lead to the collapse of our industry.

“Creating new competitions is not the answer as the money will not benefit grassroots football, it will go to 10 or 15 major clubs. Our aim should be to redistribute that wealth to strengthen football as a whole.”

($1 = 0.9016 euros)

Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ian Chadband

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