FIFA to reform soccer “by taking a step back”, says Infantino

FIFA to reform soccer “by taking a step back”, says Infantino
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has indicated that soccer’s global governing body is prepared to “reform world football by taking a step back” after the coronavirus pandemic.

Soccer leagues around the world have been brought to a standstill in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus, while this summer’s UEFA 2020 European Championship and the CONMEBOL Copa America national team tournaments have also been postponed.

The delays are likely to lead to a cluttered calendar once it is eventually deemed safe to resume play, with a number of leagues intent on finishing their 2019/20 domestic seasons.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Infantino said that a number of steps will need to be taken to help soccer avoid a financial crisis in the wake of the pandemic, which could include cutting back on the number of games and tournaments being played.

“An assessment of the global economic impact is needed. It's difficult right now, we don't know when it will return to normal,” Infantino told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“But we look at the opportunities. We can perhaps reform world football by taking a step back. With different formats. Less tournaments, but more interesting. Maybe fewer teams, but more balanced. Less games, to protect the health of the players, but more competitive.

“It's not science fiction, let's talk about it. We quantify the damages, let's see how we can cover them, we have to make sacrifices. The ones who managed their 'company' in a healthy way, will benefit – then we start again.”

“Not from scratch, we are privileged. But let's all save football together, from a crisis that risks being irreversible.”

Infantino’s comments come after FIFA last week established a working group to combat the issues facing soccer as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, including the international fixture calendar and complications around player contracts.

FIFA, which has made a US$10 million contribution to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, has already proposed to move next year’s inaugural 24-team Club World Cup, which otherwise would have clashed with the rescheduled Euro 2020 and Copa America.

With regards to when soccer might get back underway, Infantino said federations and leagues will “follow the recommendations of the governments and WHO”, the latter of which FIFA is also working with to raise awareness about how to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Health comes first, then everything else,” Infantino added. “For the managers, the rest means hoping for the best but also preparing for the worst.

“Without panicking, let’s stay it clearly: we will play again when we can do it without putting anyone’s health at risk.”

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