Connect with us

Sports

Club World Cup: Why FIFA is facing pushback over US-staged tournament

Published

on

FIFA is facing renewed pushback over its expanded Club World Cup just over a year before the tournament is due to be staged in the United States.

World players‘ union FIFPRO and the World Leagues Association want the event to be rescheduled and the international match calendar reformed over concerns about players’ welfare and their “fundamental rights.”

It comes after a report by the union last year said 43% of World Cup players surveyed had experienced “extreme or increased mental fatigue.”

In a letter obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday, soccer’s world governing body FIFA has been accused of pushing players “beyond their limits, with significant injury risks” by expanding its competitions.

The new version of the Club World Cup is slated for June 15 to July 13 next year.

WHAT’S NEW? A 32-team World Cup for clubs could be FIFA’s answer to the dominance of the Champions League and English Premier League as one of the most popular and lucrative sports competitions in the world. The new tournament will be staged every four years during most top leagues’ offseason and in-between the World Cup and European Championship.

The format will emulate the men’s and women’s World Cups, with eight groups of four. Two teams advance from each group, leading to a knockout stage from the round of 16 through to the final.

PUSHBACK

A new expanded competition has sparked concerns over the demands on players in an increasingly congested match calendar, which will include an expanded 48-team World Cup from 2026.

Plans to stage it in 2025 means three straight years of major competitions during the usual offseason, given the European Championship and Copa America are being held this summer and the next World Cup is in 2026.

FIFA has previously said the dates would be “harmoniously aligned with the international match calendar” to ensure sufficient rest for players ahead of the start of domestic leagues.

FIFPRO has become increasingly concerned about the physical and mental health of players in the face of growing demands.

Last season, Manchester United and Portugal midfielder Bruno Fernandes made 70 appearances for club and country, including a run of 20 consecutive games as a result of the World Cup in Qatar being staged midway through the campaign.

Manchester City and Spain midfielder Rodri played in 10 different competitions.

There have been claims that such demands could lead to burnout, injuries and the premature curtailing of careers.

DEMANDS

FIFPRO and the WLA are demanding the international calendar, which FIFA controls, gets “immediately amended.”

As well as rescheduling the Club World Cup, they want to reopen discussions on the release periods for players from 2024-30 and review the “Intercontinental Cup,” which is effectively a replacement for the old short-format Club World Cup staged at the end of the year.

The letter warns legal action against FIFA could be considered if the governing body doesn’t comply.

“Leagues and players cannot simply be expected to ‘adapt’ to FIFA’s decisions, which are driven by FIFA’s business strategy. We have reached the point where this situation must immediately be addressed both from a procedural and substantive perspective,” the letter said.

Concerns will hardly be alleviated by European soccer’s governing body UEFA changing the Champions League format from next season, with two additional games. The European Championship has also been expanded in recent years.

OTHER REACTION

Leading clubs in Europe have voiced their approval of the expanded Club World Cup.

The European Clubs Association said it was “fantastic news for club football in general.”

Continue Reading