Gianni Infantino denies FIFA collusion over European Super League project
By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
FIFA did not collude with clubs over the foundation of the short-lived European Super League, its president Gianni Infantino has said.
The president of LaLiga, Javier Tebas, is adamant that Infantino and other members of the FIFA hierarchy held meetings with, and offered encouragement to, the clubs involved in the Super League project, which was launched on April 18 but had collapsed within 72 hours.
Infantino has strongly rejected the idea of any competition that would be played outside of football’s existing structures, but insists his role as FIFA president is to be open to speaking with everyone, and said that just because the Super League had collapsed did not mean that the status quo in the game should be accepted.
“At FIFA it is my responsibility to hear, to meet, to discuss with football stakeholders – our member associations, leagues, our clubs, everyone: big, medium and small,” he said.
“To listen to some clubs and to speak with some clubs doesn’t mean in any way whatsoever that FIFA was behind, was colluding, was plotting, (on) any Super League project.
“We should look at the facts and not rumours or corridor gossip, especially not coming from certain parts,” the Swiss said.
“I have been working in positions of relevance for decades now and I know many clubs, I speak with clubs for many years, since my days at UEFA. And when speaking to European clubs, the Super League topic always is a topic for discussion, always. Everybody in football knows that.
“For years and years some clubs are studying and preparing for this or similar projects. In the 16 years I was in UEFA we always managed to manage that and I can tell you that there were projects that were far more advanced than the one we have seen recently.”
Infantino joined UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin in denouncing the Super League at the European confederation’s Congress the day after the league’s foundation had been announced, and FIFA also put out a statement rejecting the idea of a breakaway competition in January.
UEFA has instructed its disciplinary inspectors to examine whether Super League hard-liners Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus have violated its rules, with Champions League bans a possibility.
Infantino said it was important to “leave room” for a way back.
“We are ready to defend football from projects we know are wrong and we need to be strict about that,” he said.
“But I also left room, and also will always leave room, for clubs to come back, to discuss, because we need to care about football as a whole.”
Infantino had earlier addressed the 71st FIFA Congress, held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, and stressed the need to make football truly global, stating there was “insufficient balance” in the current distribution of money and talent.
He believes the failure of the Super League does not mean that football can carry on with business as usual.
“Does this mean that the status quo is great?” he asked.
“That we are happy, with this ever more competitive imbalance we see at club level? Where only a few concentrate all the wealth and power and are capable to compete for the biggest trophies?
“That we know before the start of the season who is winning at the end of the season?
“I think, with the people I speak to, that the answer to the question is no. But who is going to do anything about it? Who is ready to take a step in the direction of common good? I didn’t hear anyone.
“The only ones who speak, they speak to protect their own interests: fine, legitimate, perfect. At FIFA we have to protect the interests of everybody. That’s why we need to speak to everyone and why we need to speak about everything and I don’t close the doors to any discussion with anyone, never – new formats, new competitions, new ideas, I’m ready to listen.”
Another radical idea – biennial men’s and women’s World Cups – will be the subject of a FIFA feasibility study after a proposal by the Saudi Arabian football federation was approved by Congress.
Asked whether playing every two years could become repetitive, Infantino said: “Every year in England you have 380 games where the same teams are participating year by year and it’s very exciting and everyone is very happy with the Premier League. So I don’t think the repetitive element would be harmful.”
He highlighted the existing qualification programme for major tournaments as one area that was in need of examination.
“Do we really think this is the right way for football when we are saying fans maybe they want more meaning, less games? All of these points have to be considered,” he said.
Infantino said the sporting element would take priority over any commercial considerations when looking at World Cups every two years.