PARIS (Reuters) – Qatar will host the final two of the old-style seven-team Club World Cup tournaments before the competition is expanded to 24 teams from 2021, global soccer body FIFA said on Monday.
FIFA confirmed that Qatar would stage the event in 2019 and 2020 when it would also serve as a test for the World Cup which the Gulf state will host in 2022.
“For us, it is a great opportunity, it is a great test event to try out some of the operational plans we have in place in the lead up to the World Cup,” Hassan Al Thawadi, general secretary of Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee, told reporters after a FIFA Council meeting.
The competition currently features the club champions of the six continental federations plus a team from the host nation but has struggled to capture the imagination of the public since it was first staged in its current form in 2005.
From 2021 onwards, FIFA will hold the competition on a four-yearly basis with 24 teams and wants to include at least eight from Europe.
However, this has been opposed by the European Club Association (ECA) which wrote to FIFA president Gianni Infantino in March to say that its members would not take part because there is no space in the international calendar .
The ECA has 232 members, including all of Europe’s biggest clubs.
FIFA said it would approach potential hosts for the expanded edition of the club tournament before making a recommendation at the next council meeting in Shanghai on Oct. 23 and 24.
FIFA also said it had lifted the suspension on Sierra Leone after Isha Johansen, the president of the country’s football association, was acquitted of corruption charges by the country’s high court along with general secretary Chris Kamara.
Both had denied wrongdoing.
FIFA considered the case to be third-party interference in the running of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA), something which is banned under its statutes.
FIFA said in a statement that the High Court ruling “ensured that the recognized leadership has full control of the member association again.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru and Brian Homewood in Porto; editing by Clare Fallon and Pritha Sarkar)