FIFA President explained key steps to shape the future of football
Topics included the ongoing consultation process on the international match calendar, transparent bidding processes and the growth of women’s football
Gianni Infantino virtually attended the EFE Sport Business Forum
On Wednesday 30 June, FIFA President Gianni Infantino was a special guest of the second edition of the EFE Sport Business Forum, broadcast from Madrid. In an interview spanning almost an hour, the President discussed a myriad of topics. The following is an abridged version of the full interview.
Watching football games these last few days, football is back at the top of the entertainment industry, isn’t it? Yes, definitely. I believe football is bringing us a lot of excitement these days, with the [UEFA] EURO and the [CONMEBOL] Copa América. The [CONCACAF] Gold Cup will also take place soon. Because of the pandemic there was a moment in which, football stopped all around the world. This hadn’t happened since the war and it was very tough for everyone. There are many people who have suffered and who are still suffering, but the fact that football is back, although the stadiums are not full yet, gives us the feeling that we are going back to normality. What kind of new things are to be introduced related to the global transfer market. What will be the role of the clearing house that FIFA wants to create? If we think of last year before COVID-19, $7billion was spent in the international transfer market. Of that figure, $700 million went directly to agents and only $70 million went to the clubs that trained and developed the players. Our principle is to reform the transfer market because we don’t think that it’s positive to have such a huge flow of money with almost no rules. A clearing house will ensure that clubs training players will be able to receive the money they are owed, because there is a solidarity mechanism which establishes that 5% of the transfer must be paid to the clubs that provided the training. This is already in our rules. But the truth is that only $60 or $70 million is paid out.
Why? Because these clubs are small clubs who don’t have the means, who don’t know they can receive this money. Who don’t have enough time to ask for it or can’t pay lawyers to go to court. So we want to automate all this to ensure the process is completely transparent. FIFPro have requested a fairer and more reasonable football calendar. Are so many competitions really needed? What is the situation right now regarding the 24-team FIFA Club World Cup project? I am convinced this is the opinion of the vast majority of football associations, leagues, clubs, fans, players around the world: we want football to be healthier, less discriminatory and more competitive. To achieve this, we have to look at the entire international schedule. We have asked Arsène Wenger, whose football expertise and professionalism no one would deny, to take charge of this process. In this consultation process we have undertaken, we started with the key stakeholders. With players, and managers, to get to know their opinions and how they want football to be run in the coming years. What do they think about the Club World Cup? The World Cup, the EURO, the [CONMEBOL] Copa América, about the [CAF] Africa Cup [of Nations], the [AFC] Asian Cup? What are their thoughts on clubs? What do they think of traveling in September, October, November, March from one continent to another? What are their opinions about playing two matches and going back or playing four games with their clubs and then playing again with their national teams? All of these issues are very important, and we also want to hear the fans’ thoughts on them.
Our goal, is to globalise football. We might ask ourselves whether football is global or not. Of course, football is the number one sport in the world, and football is perhaps global in regards to passion, emotion and the heart, but it is absolutely not global in regards to opportunities to play, the opportunities to compete, the chances that players have to play at their best in an important tournament. My ambition, my dream, our idea, our philosophy, is to have maybe around 50 clubs from every continent being able to win a Club World Cup, and to have around 50 countries, 50 national teams from every continent being able to win a World Cup. If we manage to do this, I think football will be in great shape. Let’s talk about women’s football. What steps are you taking in the short or medium term to expand, in this field? Women’s football is the sport out of all sports that’s going to see the biggest growth in the next ten years. I don’t know where I will be in ten years, but we’ll talk again, we’ll check the figures, and we’ll compare women’s football growth with any other women’s or men’s sport, and we’ll see the numbers. I’m not just talking about revenues, but general figures. The last [FIFA] Women’s World Cup, that took place in France and was such a huge success, was seen by 1.2 billion people around the world. 1.2 billion. More than one million people in the stands. For the final alone, we had 263 million viewers. It’s a sport we have to develop across the world. That’s why, we at FIFA have decided to invest $1bn to develop women’s football, for example, in projects all around the world, so that girls can more easily access football in every country in the world.
I remember the last [FIFA] U-17 Women's World Cup in Uruguay. Mexico and Spain contested the final, and they aren’t countries you’d historically associate with the development of women’s football. So, we have to keep on developing more. And also, for women’s football, we hold the same consultation as we do for men’s football in terms of the international calendar. Let’s talk about the World Cup 2030. There are several candidates. How do you view our Spain-Portugal bid? After the FIFA reforms, the FIFA president doesn’t even have a vote when it comes to this because it’s the 211 countries who will vote. As president of FIFA, it’s important to note that once more there is a renewed interest from a lot of countries around the world in becoming candidates. What does that mean? That means people have faith in the FIFA process. That may not always have been the case but it is now because we have already held votes, for example for the [FIFA] World Cup 2026 two years ago, in an open, transparent, and public process. There are experts observing the process, it all gets audited, and the votes are public and transparent. So, what we can guarantee Spain and Portugal, what we can guarantee every country that wants to host the next World Cup, after 2026 in North America, is that the process will have total integrity and total transparency. The more candidates there are, the better it is for the president of FIFA, or for FIFA. May the best one win! We’re in 2021 now. Could you briefly explain what the next two years of FIFA will look like? Our vision is to make football truly global. If we grow, we can all grow. In order for football to grow around the world, we cannot discriminate against anyone. Football cannot be reserved for the few; it has to be open for everyone. And even the big stakeholders will benefit from football being open for everyone. I believe that the gap between the big and the small is becoming increasingly wide. Our job must be to globalise football, starting with young people in the youth World Cups in development, to give every talent in the world a chance, and every boy and girl the chance to dream. This is the 2023 vision: to make football truly global. We have to be devoted, very open to ideas. We have to be brave also, because some people might be scared of change. But, I think that we have to go with conviction, positivity; it is necessary to include the world and make football even more – much more – global than it is.