Fifa plays down rights sell-off reports

World football’s governing body Fifa has claimed German media reports that president Gianni Infantino’s competition reform plan would include the sale of all of the body’s major commercial rights are based on outdated information.

A group of investors, believed to be led by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, are said to be willing to spend $25bn (€21.9bn) on the effort over a 12-year cycle commencing in 2021. The existing Club World Cup would be expanded to a 24-team tournament, while a new national team competition would be created to effectively supersede Uefa’s Nations League, which has been formed to offer greater context to friendly matches.

The proposals are still being debated within Fifa’s inner circle, but a joint investigation between German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcaster WDR has now reported that the proposals go further than originally thought.

The two media outlets, citing documents that they have obtained, said a deal could also hand over complete commercial rights to the World Cup, including broadcast rights. Süddeutsche Zeitung and WDR identified the consortium that Fifa is said to be in talks with as British investment group SB Investment Advisers (SBIA), a subsidiary of SoftBank, and London-based investment company Centricus Partners.

In response to the reports, Fifa told SZ and WDR that the document was outdated and is only one of many hundreds that are circulating at its headquarters.