FIFA warns of World Cup ban for play­ers in break­away Euro­pean Su­per League

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - SPORTS - GRA­HAM DUN­BAR

ZURICH, Switzer­land — Soc­cer’s big­gest names would be banned from the World Cup if they played in a break­away Euro­pean Su­per League, FIFA Pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino said Wed­nes­day.

In­fantino, speak­ing to a small group of re­porters at FIFA head­quar­ters, said the gov­ern­ing body would pun­ish play­ers at clubs like Barcelona, Manch­ester City and Bay­ern Mu­nich if they left soc­cer’s or­ga­nized struc­ture to form a pri­vately-owned league.

“Ei­ther you are in or you are out,” In­fantino said, list­ing the World Cup, Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship and na­tional leagues as com­pe­ti­tions that play­ers from break­away teams could be ex­cluded from. “This in­cludes ev­ery­thing.”

Talk of a long-threat­ened su­per league was re­vived Fri­day when Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel pub­lished con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments and emails from clubs and soc­cer bod­ies in its “Foot­ball Leaks” se­ries.

Real Madrid was re­vealed to be work­ing with con­sul­tants on a 16-team Su­per League to kick off in 2021 — ef­fec­tively re­plac­ing the Cham­pi­ons League and out­side the con­trol of UEFA.

The plan called for 11 sto­ried clubs from Spain, Eng­land, Ger­many, Italy and France to get own­er­ship stakes and risk-free Su­per League mem­ber­ship for 20 years, with five more clubs from those coun­tries in­vited to play.

The break­away from soc­cer’s his­toric hi­er­ar­chy — FIFA, the six con­ti­nen­tal bod­ies and 211 na­tional fed­er­a­tions — would al­low of­fi­cials to ban play­ers from ma­jor com­pe­ti­tions, in­clud­ing the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“The idea is if you break away, you break away. You don’t keep one foot in and one foot out,” FIFA le­gal di­rec­tor Alas­dair Bell. “That would be the general ap­proach we would fol­low, but of course lawyers can de­bate this for a long time.”

Both In­fantino and Bell were long-time staffers at UEFA, which has steadily changed Cham­pi­ons League prize money and en­try rules to favour elite clubs and stall break­away threats.

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