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FIFA president seeks rare emergency meeting amid $25B offer

  • NEW YORK TIMES

    People watch soccer through the window of a store, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2014. FIFA President Gianni Infantino has called for an emergency meeting of the leading officials in international soccer to address a $25 billion rights offer from an investment group that could radically change some of the biggest competitions in the sport.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has called for an emergency meeting of the leading officials in international soccer to address a $25 billion rights offer from an investment group that could radically change some of the biggest competitions in the sport.

In a lengthy letter sent to members of the governing FIFA Council last week, Infantino called for a special meeting with leaders of soccer’s six regional bodies as soon as this week to discuss new details of the offer for control of a new quadrennial 24-team club tournament along the lines of the World Cup, FIFA’s $5 billion cash cow, and a proposed league for national teams.

The New York Times first reported details of Infantino’s secret talks with the group of international investors April 9. Infantino disclosed the negotiations to FIFA’s board at a fractious meeting last month in Bogotá, Colombia.

Officials have blocked Infantino from moving ahead with a deal that he said had to be signed within 60 days, in part because he declined to identify the members of the international consortium, citing a nondisclosure agreement, and also because they are concerned the event could compete with existing tournaments.

It later emerged that one of the proposed investors is SoftBank, the Japan-based financial institution that runs the world’s biggest technology investment fund. That fund is heavily backed by the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and China, which both see soccer as a path to grow their sports and entertainment industries.

The full FIFA Council is expected to address the offer during a meeting in early May. The next scheduled meeting for that group had been set for June.

“A meeting with the confederations will take place in due course but no date has been set yet,” said a FIFA spokesman, confirming the planned talks were to discuss details of the offer from investors. “Further consultation is also ongoing with different stakeholders on potential changes to the FIFA Club World Cup.”

The last time FIFA called its top board for an unscheduled meeting was in 2015, after several of the board’s members were arrested in a dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel.

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