FIFA warns of World Cup ban for players in Super League

Fifa president Gianni Infantino. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Fifa president Gianni Infantino. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Football’s biggest names would be banned from the World Cup if they played in a breakaway European Super League, Fifa president Gianni Infantino has warned.

Infantino, speaking to a small group of reporters at Fifa headquarters in Switzerland, said the governing body would punish players at clubs like Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich if they left football’s organised structure to form a privately-owned league.

“Either you are in or you are out,” Infantino said, listing the World Cup, European Championship and national leagues as competitions that players from breakaway teams could be excluded from. “This includes everything.”

Talk of a long-threatened super league was revived on Friday when German magazine Der Spiegel published confidential documents and emails from clubs and football bodies in its “Football Leaks” series.

Real Madrid was revealed to be working with consultants on a 16-team Super League to kick off in 2021 – effectively replacing the Champions League and outside the 
control of Uefa.

The plan called for 11 storied clubs from Spain, England, Germany, Italy and France to get ownership stakes and relegation-free Super League membership for 20 years, with five more clubs from those countries invited to play.

The breakaway from football’s historic hierarchy – Fifa, the six continental bodies and 211 national federations – would allow officials to ban players from major competitions, including the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“The idea is if you break away, you break away. You don’t keep one foot in and one foot out,” Fifa legal director Alasdair Bell said. “That would be the general approach we would follow, but of course lawyers can debate this for a long time.”

Both Infantino and Bell were long-time staffers at Uefa, which has steadily changed Champions League prize money and entry rules to favour elite clubs and stall breakaway threats.

“This is the history of the last 20 years,” said Infantino, who has clashed this year with European football officials and club leaders over Fifa’s proposed Club World Cup project, which is funded by Japanese investor SoftBank.

Infantino said his plan – potentially featuring at least 12 European clubs in a 24-team line-up, and worth a promised $3 billion every four years – was a good alternative to a private closed league.

“The Club World Cup is the answer to any attempt to think even about any sort of breakaway leagues,” he said.

Infantino insisted while the plan would be lucrative for clubs taking part, it also kept money in the football family. Fifa would use 25 per cent of revenue to share globally.

“If the price to pay is to give proper revenues to a club participating in a Club World Cup but this allows us to ... give $1 million to Haiti who has nothing, or to Mongolia who has three time zones but only two football pitches, well then we should be I think doing that.”

A Fifa task force will assess a revamp of competitions, including a new event for all national teams played every two years. Infantino said he expects a decision in March when he chairs a Fifa Council meeting in Miami.

He also believes the latest breakaway threat will calm. “People are still quite reasonable,” Infantino said. “I trust certainly the club owners and presidents to be able to have a discussion.”