FIFA offers peace talks with leagues and players over legal action threat

FIFA has offered to hold peace talks with the World Leagues Association - headed by the boss of the Premier League - to stave off the threat of legal action over a new Club World Cup.

In a letter to the WLA and global players' union FIFPRO seen by Sky News, FIFA interim secretary general Mattias Grafstrom said they "disagree with the tenor and content" over complaints a 32-club men's summer tournament was being imposed next year without consultation for financial motivations.

The WLA, whose chairman is Premier League CEO Richard Masters, joined with FIFPRO to threaten a revolt against the new Club World Cup over concerns about players' health being endangered by fixture congestion.

They called FIFA's actions "inherently abusive" in a letter reported by Sky News on Thursday and said legal action was being assessed.

But they did not reference the UEFA Champions League adding two more games per team in the revamped group stage from next season, taking the total to eight to squeeze in around domestic and international duties.

FIFA questioned why they are being singled out rather than other expanding competitions.

Mr Grafstrom wrote: "It would be useful for us to understand if the motivations expressed in your letter have resulted in similar written representations and references to legal action to your members or other competition organisers."

The Swedish official, who works alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino, alluded to the Premier League staging a summer series in the US last year for six clubs in highlighting how it is not only FIFA adding games to the football calendar.

"We reject any suggestion or inference that FIFA somehow 'imposes' the International Match Calendar (IMC) on the football community without adequate consultation or to suit its own 'business strategy'," Mr Grafstrom wrote.

"As the global governing body for football, we have a duty and a responsibility to design and implement an IMC which is in the best interests of world football, including, among others, the interests of confederations, national teams, leagues, clubs, players and, of course, football fans," he said.

"You will appreciate that this is a delicate and challenging balancing exercise, and it is not always possible to satisfy everyone in this respect.

"The primary purpose of the IMC is to serve as a tool of coordination, to ensure the efficient and smooth running of football at global level and clearly this involves the balancing of many different and sometimes competing interests."

The quadrennial Club World Cup is taking the men's calendar slot used the year before the 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups as a test event in the host nations - the now-defunct, eight-country Confederations Cup.

Chelsea and Manchester City have qualified as recent European champions for an event giving FIFA a bigger footprint on the club game that is the lifeblood of football, having previously run a little-regarded seven-team Club World Cup annually.

FIFA revenue projected to soar

Mr Grafstrom wrote to the WLA and FIFPRO that "in contrast to all others, any net revenues from those competitions are fully reinvested into global football development distributed across each of the 211 member associations around the world, benefitting their individual players, clubs, leagues and others".

FIFA is projecting revenue to soar to $11bn (£8.6bn) in the 2023-26 cycle ending with the expanded 48-team men's World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada - up from $7.6bn (£6bn) in 2019-2022, covering the Qatar World Cup that featured 32 countries.

The Premier League will generate £6.7bn in revenue over four years from domestic broadcasting agreements alone from 2025 - and that figure could reach £12bn when factoring overseas deals.

Mr Grafstrom said FIFA was willing to find a date and location to meet in June or July.

"While we disagree with the tenor and content of your letter, we have nonetheless taken note of your concerns and are more than happy to continue our ongoing dialogue on this important topic," he wrote.

"In this context, we would be pleased to invite you to discuss the matter further at a time convenient for you."

Sky News first revealed in December that the English players' union, the PFA, was considering legal action over the new Club World Cup creating additional welfare issues for players lacking enough rest in the year.