Coronavirus: Fewer competitions, teams & matches - Infantino muses football 'reform'

By Sports Desk March 23, 2020

President Gianni Infantino has suggested FIFA could "reform football by taking a step backwards" after the coronavirus pandemic.

The sport has been halted in a bid to slow the spread of the virus, which has over 345,000 confirmed cases and almost 15,000 deaths worldwide.

Europe's top five leagues have been suspended, while Euro 2020 and the 2020 Copa America have been pushed back 12 months.

Infantino sees the pause in play as an opportunity to assess the future of the game, though.

Leading managers - most notably Jurgen Klopp - have long bemoaned a packed scheduled, and the FIFA chief has highlighted the possibility of cutting back on some competitions.

"Perhaps we can reform football by taking a step backwards," Infantino told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"[There would be] fewer but more interesting competitions, maybe fewer teams but for a better balance, fewer but more competitive matches to preserve players' health."

Meanwhile, Infantino confirmed FIFA's revamped 24-team Club World Cup - initially set for 2021 - would have to be rescheduled due to the changing international calendar.

"We will have to move the Club World Cup," he acknowledged. "We will see if the new format will have its first edition in 2021, 2022 or 2023."

Football's immediate focus is on completing ongoing club campaigns.

Infantino insists all leagues will follow the World Health Organisation's (WHO) guidance, and FIFA is looking at altering contracts set to expire in June to allow for the potential prolongment of the season.

"We will start again when there is no longer any risk to health," he said. "Nothing says that will be in April or May.

"Federations and leagues are ready to follow WHO recommendations.

"We are thinking of modifying the statutes of contracts and making temporary derogations to extend their duration, initially scheduled until June 30."

Related items

  • Nagelsmann compares football and NFL as Leipzig coach's heart beats for Packers Nagelsmann compares football and NFL as Leipzig coach's heart beats for Packers

    RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann said football and the NFL can learn from each other as he revealed his admiration for the Green Bay Packers.

    Nagelsmann – one of Europe's finest tacticians – said he is a fan of American football after hailing the "extraordinary" discipline of the league's players.

    As Aaron Rodgers and the Packers prepare to face Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Leipzig boss Nagelsmann insisted the two sports can learn from each other.

    "Our general manager Timmo Hardung is a huge Green Bay Packers fan, so that's rubbed off on me a bit," Nagelsmann told reporters ahead of Leipzig's match against Union Berlin on Wednesday.

    "My heart beats for them a bit, their history is very interesting and different to most of the other clubs in the NFL."

    Nagelsmann added: "It's a very interesting sport. And I think we can learn a lot from American football in soccer, and our players can learn a lot from it as well. Especially in terms of their discipline in studying and executing the team's playbook. I definitely think that's an area that soccer can improve on.

    "The game is based on an unbelievable number of plays, and the players have to understand a lot of specific terms and then act accordingly out on the field. They have to do all that extremely quickly, which is extraordinary."

    "You could see in the games that there were one or two tricks – I'd like to see a bit more of that. 'Hitch and Pitch' I think it's called. That worked quite well in the play-offs a couple of times," he continued.

    "So American Football can learn from football, but definitely vice versa too. And if any NFL coaches would like to have a chat about it all, feel free to get in touch!"

    Leipzig – Champions League semi-finalists last season – are third and four points adrift of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich after 16 matches in 2020-21.

  • Solskjaer thankful for 'strong backing' as Man Utd revival gathers pace Solskjaer thankful for 'strong backing' as Man Utd revival gathers pace

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United's rapid climb up the Premier League table has shown why the Old Trafford board stuck with him.

    United will go top of the standings again if they beat Fulham on Wednesday, in the game that will see the Red Devils reach the 19-game halfway mark in the 2020-21 campaign.

    Despite relinquishing top spot to Leicester City after the Foxes beat Chelsea on Tuesday, United have played one fewer game and can go two points clear of Brendan Rodgers' men.

    The transformation in United's Premier League fortunes has been astounding since early November, with a 3-1 win at Everton coming at a time when Solskjaer was looking on rocky ground.

    Although a Champions League exit in December was a jolt, on the domestic front they have taken 30 points from the last 36 available in the Premier League to hurtle up the table, and United have been rewarded for the faith they have shown the manager.

    They had stood a lowly 15th after six games, with only seven points, and Solskjaer said on Tuesday: "Hopefully I have proven that I can help the club going forwards.

    "Personally I have felt very strong backing and leadership from the club, which has made the journey that we've been on - ups and downs - clear.

    "The position we are in now is due to loads of hard work by everyone. We are halfway through the season and we are up there."

    Solskjaer, given his 11-year playing career with United, knows that sustained excellence is demanded at the club, and he accepts that the hard work is just beginning.

    United have shown they can hit a hot streak and barrel their way up the league, but now comes the challenge of showing they belong in the upper reaches.

    The size of the club is not in doubt, but the team have only exceeded 70 points once in a Premier League season since Alex Ferguson left almost eight years ago.

    "It is not about getting there once," said Solskjaer, whose United have not won the Premier League since 2012-13. "That is the easy bit, to go up the league.

    "Staying there is the challenge and that is the challenge we are looking forward to - focusing on every game and building this squad and hope that in the end we can lift the trophy. That is when you can talk about moving the team where it should be."

  • Madrid's Jovic absolutely world class, says Eintracht boss Hutter Madrid's Jovic absolutely world class, says Eintracht boss Hutter

    Eintracht Frankfurt head coach Adi Hutter hailed the "greatness" of Luka Jovic following his stunning start to life back in the Bundesliga.

    Jovic scored two goals in his return for Eintracht last week after re-joining the German club on loan until the end of the season, having endured a difficult period at LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

    The Serbia international only scored twice in 32 appearances under Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane in the Spanish capital, where he arrived for €60million in 2019.

    But Jovic came off the bench and scored twice in 28 minutes as Eintracht defeated Schalke 3-1 in the Bundesliga on Sunday.

    Jovic matched his Madrid tally in the stunning cameo for Eintracht, where the 23-year-old netted 27 goals in 2018-19 before making the move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

    Previewing Wednesday's showdown with Freiburg, Hutter discussed Jovic and his partnership with Eintracht star Andre Silva.

    "Strikers are always a bit egotistical, but when it is about the team or Eintracht Frankfurt, everyone puts their ego aside," Hutter told reporters.

    "Luka [Jovic] does that sovereignly. When you bring back someone who had his best time here and scored 27 goals in a year, then gets loaned out and scores two goals in 32 games, and then comes back and scores two goals in about 25 minutes, it's logical that the attention is more on that than on Andre Silva's 12th goal of the season.

    "But when you hear Luka's statements that it is an honour for him to play in a team with Andre, it shows the greatness and character of Luka and it shows the respect he has for Andre Silva. I have spoken to Andre before and he said that competition is very important for him and that quality in the team is important. That doesn't bother him at all.

    "I also can't imagine that Andre Silva, who has previously played for Milan and Sevilla, can't handle competition. I think he has also seen that Luka is another striker with whom he can harmonise.

    "As always, I'm keeping a low profile. He [Luka Jovic] has shown in this short season that he is an absolute world-class striker with a high calibre. We'll leave it open as to whether he'll play from the start [against Freiburg]."

    Silva's goal to open the scoring against Schalke was his 12th of the season, taking him level with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland – only Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski (21) has more in 2020-21.

    Eintracht – eighth in the standings – are the only team to win all three of their Bundesliga games in 2021 and have now won four on the bounce in the league for the first time since early 2019.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.