Club World Cup put back as FIFA pledges 'exceptional measures' in face of virus pandemic

AFP
FIFA have postponed the first 24-team Club World Cup after Euro 2020 and the Copa America were both put back by a year (AFP Photo/OZAN KOSE)
FIFA have postponed the first 24-team Club World Cup after Euro 2020 and the Copa America were both put back by a year (AFP Photo/OZAN KOSE)

Lausanne (AFP) - FIFA confirmed the postponement of the new Club World Cup on Wednesday as it pledged to take a series of "exceptional measures" to protect football in the face of the coronavirus crisis, including a possible support fund for financially stricken clubs and associations.

World football's governing body accepted it would not play the new 24-team Club World Cup in June and July of 2021 after it was announced on Tuesday that the European Championship and Copa America would both be moved to that period.

The two tournaments were postponed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, and FIFA president Gianni Infantino had already said in advance of a meeting with the heads of the six continental ruling bodies on Wednesday that he would propose putting back the Club World Cup to later in 2021, or even to 2022 or 2023.

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In the end, a statement released by FIFA simply said new dates for the highly lucrative tournament would be decided "at a later stage".

FIFA were seemingly left with little choice after Aleksander Ceferin, the president of the European game's governing body UEFA, said he had told Infantino on Tuesday "that the Club World Cup...cannot happen" in 2021 having postponed the Euro by a year. Ceferin did not indicate there was any offer of a compromise.

Ceferin has been critical of Infantino's Club World Cup plans, and UEFA and South American governing body CONMEBOL agreed together to put their continental competitions back by a year, having recently signed a cooperation agreement.

Meanwhile, FIFA announced the creation of a working group to deal with the consequences of the pandemic, including on players' contracts and transfers and to deal with the economic impact on the game.

"This exceptional situation requires exceptional measures and decisions. This crisis impacts the entire world and that is why solutions need to take into account the interests of all stakeholders around the world," said Infantino.

- 'Support fund' -

On Tuesday, as well as postponing Euro 2020 by a year, UEFA committed to finishing the European club season by the end of June but accepted that a further review will be required -- it may be impossible to finish the season by then if the ongoing health crisis does not ease.

That creates a potential headache with players' contracts often expiring on June 30. Transfer window dates may need to be altered too.

The sudden stop to the football season in much of the world is also a serious concern for many clubs and leagues who already have financial worries and now risk going weeks and potentially months without collecting gate receipts and other revenues.

FIFA has cash reserves of around $1.5 billion (1.37 billion euros) and said it would "analyse if a support fund at global level will be required and how in that case concrete support mechanisms should be defined".

The body is also pledging to donate $10 million (9.1 million euros) to the World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

The outbreak, which first emerged in China late last year, has quickly marched across the globe, infecting more than 200,000 people and killing over 8,000.

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