Shanghai: Fifa is set to grant China the rights to host the inaugural version of its expanded Club World Cup, a 24-team tournament scheduled for 2021 that will feature some of the world’s biggest clubs and provide a significant cash infusion for world football’s governing body.
The decision to award the hosting rights to China will be announced on Friday in Shanghai after it is confirmed in a vote of Fifa’s governing council at its quarterly meeting. European football officials, who had strongly opposed an expanded tournament for clubs when the plans were raised, now appear set to go along, and to provide a third of the teams in the expanded tournament.
The new quadrennial event, announced in March, will replace the unpopular Confederations Cup, an eight-team national tournament that in recent versions had acted as a tune-up for World Cup hosts. It also will mean the demise of the Club World Cup as an annual event which was won by Real Madrid in Abu Dhabi last November.
In choosing China as the first host of the expanded Club World Cup, Fifa will be rewarding a country that, since a 2015 government edict made football a national priority, has spent billions of dollars on coaching programmes, sponsorship agreements and investments in a big-spending domestic league that has lured top players with some of the biggest salaries in world football. Hosting the new club championship also could be a boost for a Chinese bid to host the 2030 World Cup.
As it does for the World Cup, Europe will provide more competitors for the event than Fifa’s other five regional confederations. Under Fifa’s plan, Europe would have eight places in the 24-team field. South America would have the next largest allotment, with six, and the remainder would qualify from the other regional confederations, including three from Concacaf, the representative body for North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
The new event is likely to produce a significant increase in revenue for Fifa, which has traditionally relied on the men’s World Cup for almost all of its income.