A sensitive reader last week lamented the negative tone of this column, so in the interests of balance, this week we will be reporting only positive news!
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has just announced that the organization's record revenue of $7.6 billion during the period 2019-2022 "is the result of our solid financial transparency and stands as a concrete example of how we are aiming to make football truly global." As if it needed to be stated that FIFA is well known for its solid financial transparency! We trust you, Mr. Infantino, to take care of that cash and distribute it in any way that you see fit, in ways that will be purely for the good of the game and mankind too.
The news gets better, though. Over the 2023-2026 period, that revenue is projected to increase to $11 billion. More money, which will mean FIFA spreading more good around the world. "The resounding success of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar has been key to the organization’s ability to fulfil its mission in relation to our member associations and the world of football," said Mr. Infantino, the greatest, noblest and most honest sports administrator in history. And, so there we go — FIFA's mission has been fulfilled. The world of football has attained 100 percent perfection and there is nothing here for critics to see.
As if cups flowing over with milk, honey and Moet Chandon were not enough, FIFA's announcement also offered juicy fresh cherries to place atop soccer's already sweet, succulent and impeccably textured cake. The first 32-team Club World Cup, which FIFA will stage in the summer of 2025, will feature teams from the following confederations: four each from the Asian Football Confederation, the Confederation of African Football, and Concacaf. Six from Conmebol, but just one from the Oceania Football Confederation. Twelve from UEFA! And one from the tournament host — yet to be announced, subject to a no doubt fair and transparent bidding process.
This is not a competition that clubs (or fans) have asked for. It's a competition that FIFA is expanding because — despite its booming revenues (see above) — it is in awe of the vast amounts of revenue generated every year by the UEFA Champions League, the biggest club competition in the world. This may explain why the FIFA Club World Cup hopes to feature a bias of European clubs. It's not about money, though, it's about spreading the global game! Just not spreading it equally. So Africa and Asia, say, get a slice of toast with a little margarine lite on it. Europe, though, gets a slice of toast dripping with butter and strawberry jam. So, more good news! (For Europe.)
In the meantime, the 2023 edition, still featuring a measly but fairly allocated seven clubs from around the world, will be hosted by Saudi Arabia in December. Here's the latest Human Rights Watch report on Saudi Arabia. The good news is that you can ignore it, because FIFA's statutes (article 3) state that “FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognized human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights.” This can only mean all human rights have been granted equally to all of Saudi Arabia's subjects, because FIFA would never violate its own statutes. So, yet more good news — soccer really is healing the world, folks! And to cynics who say this healing is akin to placing a sticking plaster on a bullet wound, I say, "What if that sticking plaster is a miracle sticking plaster that can heal anything? Have you thought about that, you moaning naysayers?"
Especially good news too for Canada, Mexico and the USA, who at the stroke of a pen have qualified automatically as hosts of the 2026 World Cup. Congratulations! That's the competition FIFA has already voted to expand to 48 teams, a massive and already more successful number than the previous 32, and which will germinate yet more and more and more revenue until poverty is abolished everywhere. And if you're worried that we're still missing a viable format for the expanded competition, FIFA is certainly working on a solution that will absolutely be in the best interests of the game. It's what they do.
Finally, it's fantastic to see that Manchester City has re-conquered the top spot in the English Premier League. This is a club that has pulled itself up out of nothing thanks only to the merit of its on-field achievements, and that in spite of the jealous carping of inferior rivals, ravenous lawyers and pernickety administrators who try to slander the club by implying (or even providing actual evidence) that it has ignored rules on financial fair play. Good grief, this is an English club! The Abu Dhabi ownership group is clearly a front, and City is run by honorable gentlemen in tweeds who preach that spirit, purity and sporting endeavor in the bracing fresh air are the driving forces of good behind all that they do. Englishmen made the rules, for goodness sake, why on earth would they break them?
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