China is set to be awarded the inaugural version of the expanded Club World Cup, a controversial and lucrative new football competition designed to feature many of the world’s biggest club teams.
The Asian country will be proposed as the host nation for the new tournament during a meeting of the ruling council of Fifa, international football’s governing body, in Shanghai on Friday.
Fifa declined to comment, but one of the organisation’s executives said the council will vote on the matter next week.
However, no other countries are in the running to host the international club tournament, which will begin in the summer of 2021, according to two people with direct knowledge of the deliberations.
The New York Times was first to report that China was likely to be awarded the competition.
The format will replace the current eight-team annual Club World Cup with a 24-team contest featuring at least eight European teams that takes place every four years.
The proposals are vastly different to Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s original concept, which was backed by an international consortium including Japan’s SoftBank and London-based Centricus. That would have guaranteed $25bn for an expanded Club World Cup, along with a new league contest for national teams.
In March, Fifa said it would press ahead with a “pilot” version of the expanded club competition but scrapped the national team contest altogether.
A person close to the recent talks said commercial considerations for the new club tournament would be decided at a later date, though it is expected to become a valuable revenue source for Fifa, which is reliant on income from the World Cup.
The expanded club tournament has proved controversial, however. Uefa, European football’s governing body, and the European Club Association, a trade body that represents more than 200 of the continent’s biggest clubs, have previously said they would boycott the concept.
It appears that a consensus to press ahead with the expanded competition will be reached on Friday.
Appealing to Chinese fans is priority of many of Europe’s biggest clubs, while China’s President Xi Jinping has unveiled plans for a sporting revolution that would turn the world’s most populous nation from a football backwater into a powerhouse.
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