Gianni Infantino’s brain child of an expanded Club World Cup was recently approved by FIFA to the outrage of many in Europe. The European Club Association has even gone as far to say that European clubs would boycott this competition when it debuts in 2021, their main objection being that it alters the sacred international match calendar, which presently runs until 2024. My main question is, why is everyone acting so negatively? A question that seems pretty hypocritical for me, but it is the one I am asking.
At first, I was annoyed too. “Damn it, FIFA, nobody cares about the Club World Cup, just stop trying”, were the words I would have said, if any of my friends cared about my opinions on the Club World Cup and whether or not it would work. That was until I found out that this would not be played mid-season like the current iteration, from then I was intrigued and even excited as I remembered how fun three games a day was last summer.
The only reactions that I have seen to this announcement has been negative. ‘The players are too fatigued’ they cry ‘it is another FIFA money grab’ they moan. Whilst, yes it definitely is a FIFA money making tool (what do they do that isn’t?), I believe it could be a lot of fun. This new competition essentially replaces, as far as I can work out, the two most pointless competitions in world football, including the Scottish Premiership. This new tournament would remove the current Club World Cup, which is played in December for no apparent reason, and the Confederations Cup, which even I skip the group phase of to do better things, and I watched all of Morocco versus Iran last summer, and what a game it was too. We are getting another 24-team tournament to watch over the summer and stave off the barren hell hole that is my life once the football season goes on holiday. It will certainly stop me from refreshing the BBC Sport gossip page quite so many times per day. You don’t know what true boredom is until you go to Melksham on a rainy Tuesday to watch a pre-season game for fun.
As much as this new tournament will be dominated by the eight European sides that will be present, is that not already the case in the World Cup? Only two non-European sides made the Quarter-Finals in Russia, both of which were South American. And I don’t know about you, but I still spend 4 years fantasising about getting to watch that. If the European clubs do take it seriously, which they will do because of the prize money on offer and the ability for them to grow their brand internationally, which has become of critical importance over the last decade, then we will see a very exciting tournament with some real competition in the latter stages and a chance to view some exciting youngsters coming out of the less viewed confederations. I will certainly be glued to the sofa for several hours a day to watch when 2021 comes around.
This tournament could also be huge for those aforementioned young starlets and the frequency with which they emerge. Initial reports are suggesting that each participant will earn £50 million for taking part in the revamped competition. That would maybe buy one reserve player for the European clubs, but for the rest that could be huge. South American clubs in particular depend upon selling their young talents to the European juggernaut, but this influx of cash could help them demand slightly higher fees for their hard work, due to no longer relying simply on these fees, and also help them fund their academies that produce some of the greatest talents that the world has seen, and hopefully uncover even more diamonds in the rough. Clubs outside of the European bubble do not get the TV money and having access to this revenue stream would do wonders for the overall standard of global football.
People always whine that players play too much and are fatigued and there is something to answer for here – just look at what Luca Modric has turned in to this season. But this is going to replace an exiting competition, so those that would have been involved in the Confederations Cup will be just as tired as they would have been. This also helps the sides that play in the current incarnation of the Club World Cup as they will now have a less cluttered regular season, helping the reigning European Champions keep their fixtures at a manageable level. Also, with the science involved in football, any player that has such huge negative impacts is simply being let down by their club, as they have the facilities to stop players reaching the dreaded ‘red zone’.
If you need further convincing, just look at the UEFA Nations League. When that started late last year it was a confusing mess that people didn’t want. Less than a year later, I love the Nations League. England are competing for an international trophy this summer and we got to watch a series of compelling matches. Rarely is an international break as exciting as when England went into their final match against ‘It’s Coming Home’ spoilers Croatia (still not over it), knowing that defeat meant relegation, drawing meant maintaining position, and victory would send them to the finals. Nobody was complaining about the mid-season break as Harry Kane dived to send the ball home and send England to Portugal in the 85th minute.
Give the new Club World Cup a chance, and if after all this you are still anti, remember one thing. Football is always better than no football.