Fifa, world soccer’s governing body, is reportedly working on plans to postpone its Club World Cup competition, initially scheduled to take place in December, until early 2022 because of logistical challenges linked to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The UK’s Associated Press, citing anonymous sources, reports that Fifa is looking to stage the event in January or February instead and that talks with prospective hosts (including Qatar) are ongoing.
The seven-team tournament, which involves the winners of the various pan-continental club competitions as well as the domestic league champions from the host nation, was originally going to be held in Japan, only for the country to pull out from hosting earlier this year due to fears about the potential spread of Covid-19.
Its last edition took place in 2019, being won by English heavyweights Liverpool.
Fifa then held talks with authorities in South Africa in September around that country staging the tournament, but those conversations did not progress – again, because of the desire to get more of the country vaccinated first.
One option is for Qatar to host the tournament as a dry run for the Fifa World Cup that it will hold in November and December next year.
Qatar, however, is already set to host a 23-team Arab Cup in November and December this year – with that national teams' competition specifically created in order to test the newly-built World Cup stadiums – so the Gulf state may feel it does not need another set of games to accommodate.
The mayor of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil also said late last month that his city would be interested in staging the CWC, although that was before Fifa’s preference for a tournament early next year was made public.
Brazil previously staged the inaugural edition of the CWC back in 2000.
The Club World Cup, which Fifa has been at pains to build up in terms of its international appeal as much as possible in recent years, was due to switch to a 24-team format this year and to start a multi-year hosting rights deal with China.
However, that plan was then shelved because of the pandemic’s initial impact, with Fifa unable to raise the necessary funding to hold such an expanded tournament this year.
Indeed, it remains to be seen whether a 24-team version will ever be held, given the lack of space in the upcoming global soccer calendar in which to shoehorn in a tournament of that size.