Infantino denies FIFA colluded on Super League but says it has long been 'a topic for discussion'

By Sports Desk May 21, 2021

Gianni Infantino has denied FIFA colluded with clubs on the controversial Super League but stopped short of saying there had been no talks about the project.

The president of world football's governing body spoke out on Friday after the FIFA congress, describing the Super League attempted breakaway as "a rupture" in the game.

Asked whether FIFA had any involvement in the Super League planning or if it had offered support, Infantino gave a nine-minute response in which he said it was his job to always listen to anybody in the game considering a new format.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas recently accused Infantino of encouraging the Super League, but the FIFA chief rebutted that claim.

"Let me tell you that when we are analysing these questions, we should look at the facts and not rumours or corridor gossip, especially not coming from certain parts," Infantino said.

The proposed new competition was announced and quashed in the space of around 48 hours in April, a breath-taking episode that saw players, coaches, supporter groups, national associations, politicians and even royalty express dismay at the closed-door concept.

Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham announced they would be taking part, as did Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from LaLiga, and Serie A giants Juventus, Milan and Inter also signed up. The project, a major threat to the UEFA Champions League, collapsed dramatically, but there are some who expect it to be revived.

"I know many clubs," Infantino told reporters in a conference call. "I speak with clubs for many years, since my days at UEFA, and when speaking to European clubs the Super League topic always is a topic for discussion.

"Everyone in football knows that, so let's not play games here. Everyone in football knows for years clubs have been studying and preparing for this or similar projects.

"In the 16 years I was in UEFA we always managed that, and I can tell you there were projects that were far more advanced than the one we have seen recently.

"At FIFA it is also my responsibility and our responsibility to discuss with football stakeholders. Now to listen to some clubs and to speak with some clubs doesn't certainly mean in any way whatsoever that FIFA was behind, was colluding, was plotting or I don't know what words you used for any Super League project."

Infantino pointed to a FIFA statement issued in January that said a breakaway competition would not be recognised by the world body.

"In that moment, the rupture was of course becoming inevitable and the rupture is never good, it's not good for anyone," Infantino said on Friday. "No war is good – never. We are ready to defend football from projects we know are wrong."

He added: "I don't close the doors to any discussion with anyone – never – about new formats, new ideas, new competitions. I'm ready to listen to everyone.

"This is my job ... the way I live the presidency of FIFA.

"I'm aware some people prefer to spin these discussions in a different way and I can understand that attacking me or FIFA is a good way to divert the attention from real problems that have never been addressed in the last years."

Infantino did not specify his target for that remark, but said: "I hope that as of today we can move to the real issues that football is facing."

Related items

  • 'We wish him much health' – Pele gets message of support from Brazil's World Cup squad 'We wish him much health' – Pele gets message of support from Brazil's World Cup squad

    Pele is in the thoughts of Brazil's World Cup stars as he undergoes treatment in hospital, head coach Tite said on Thursday.

    Three-time World Cup winner Pele, regarded among the greatest players of all time, is receiving medical care at home in Brazil.

    The 82-year-old underwent surgery to remove a tumour from his colon last year, and has been in and out of hospital since.

    His daughter, Kely Nascimento, has said there is "no surprise or emergency" over her father's hospitalisation after he was admitted this week.

    Particularly coming at a time when a World Cup is taking place and he is not present, the news of Pele needing hospital attention has caused concern for many.

    Tite read out a statement before taking questions at Brazil's press conference, saying: "We all wish a lot of health to Pele.

    "We found out the news from the press. He’s the biggest representative of the national team and we wish him much health. That is the feeling of all the squad, we wish Pele the very best."

    Pele's daughter said in her statement on Wednesday that "the media is freaking out again", adding that she planned to visit her father in the new year, with her brothers visiting at present.

    As Brazil got their tournament under way last week, Pele sent the squad a message of good luck. He was a World Cup winner in 1958, 1962 and 1970.

    He wrote on Instagram: "Today we start writing a new story. No matter the size and tradition of the opponents: we must respect and play each match with the focus of a final.

    "It is important to play beautifully, yes, but it is also essential to leave everything on the pitch.

    "Today, we will be more than 200 million hearts beating as one, vibrating with each achievement of our Selecao.

    "I am sending all positive energies to you. I'm sure we'll have a happy ending. God bless you. Bring this trophy home!"

    Brazil have begun their campaign with a 2-0 win over Serbia and a 1-0 success against Switzerland, rounding off their Group G campaign against Cameroon on Friday.

  • England should be feared by other nations at World Cup, says Rice England should be feared by other nations at World Cup, says Rice

    England have a good enough squad to win the World Cup and should be feared by other competing nations, according to Three Lions midfielder Declan Rice.

    Gareth Southgate's side finished top of Group B with seven points after beating Iran 6-2 and Wales 3-0 either side of a goalless draw with the United States.

    It is the first time since 2006 that England have finished top en route to the last 16, where Group A runners-up Senegal now await on Sunday.

    Following shock defeats in the group phase already for France, Argentina, Belgium and Germany, Rice believes England's serene progress is a sign they mean business.

    "I didn't see the France [loss to Tunisia] last night. I saw the result and there have been a lot of shocks in this tournament," he said at a press conference on Thursday. 

    "You can't take anything for granted. That's why we're doing so well and maybe why we are not getting the credit we deserve.

    "It could have been banana skins for us in any of the three games, but we've done well in all of them. 

    "We've seen big nations lose but we have not put ourselves in a position where we've felt under pressure. We've always felt in control of the group.

    "When you start to play better teams, your level goes up. These are the games you want to be involved in and get remembered forever. We'll be ready for those type of games.

    "Other nations will always look at us and the quality that we have in the squad. Why should we not be feared?

    "If you look at our attacking players, we have world-class, unbelievable talents across the board. Across the whole team, we have players who have won the biggest trophies."

    England have not lifted the World Cup since 1966 and Rice accepts that partly explains why his side are perhaps not as fancied as others to go all the way in Qatar.

    "We're one of the biggest teams here. It's down to us to prove it on the pitch," he said. "Teams like France have won World Cups and done it consistently. We want to change that.

    "All those big nations, we want to show that we're here. We are not here for the round of 16; we want to go all the way."

    The nine goals scored by England is the most they have ever managed in the group stage at a major tournament.

    Rice is one of seven players to have started each of England's matches in Qatar and he was also a regular in their run to the Euro 2020 final, which they lost to Italy on penalties.

    The West Ham midfielder is hoping to use that feel-good factor created last year to propel England to an even bigger achievement this time around. 

    "It was obviously COVID back then so we couldn't see anyone, friends or family," he said. "But we saw videos of the fans back home and it brought all the fans together.

    "We will try to keep going, try to lift everyone. It's obviously really close to Christmas now, so hopefully we'll give them the best Christmas present."

  • Liverpool great Heighway retires at 75 as Carragher leads tributes to mentor to Reds stars Liverpool great Heighway retires at 75 as Carragher leads tributes to mentor to Reds stars

    Liverpool favourite Steve Heighway has called time on his Reds career at the age of 75, with Jamie Carragher hailing him as "a huge influence".

    Former winger Heighway has spent 25 years working at the club's academy, across two spells, and Liverpool announced he has decided to retire.

    Heighway played for Liverpool from 1970 to 1981, winning a string of league titles and two European Cups with the Reds, while scoring 76 goals in 475 games.

    His youth coaching role proved hugely significant too, with Heighway helping to nurture talents such as Robbie Fowler, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen and Carragher.

    He was head of youth development from 1989 to 2007 before initially retiring, but Heighway returned to the club as a full-time consultant in 2015, after being invited back by academy boss Alex Inglethorpe.

    That saw him work closely with Inglethorpe with a view to bringing through youngsters capable of challenging for places in Jurgen Klopp's first-team squad.

    Carragher, who made 737 appearances for Liverpool, was quick to thank Heighway on Thursday.

    He wrote on Twitter: "What a contribution from Steve Heighway @LFC as a player who won Leagues & European cups.

    "Then heading up an academy that produced McManaman, Fowler, Owen, Gerrard……amongst a few others!

    "A huge influence on me as a young player and still to this day. Thank you Steve."

    Inglethorpe told Liverpool's website: "Steve has decided it is the right time to retire from his coaching role at the club."

    He described Heighway overseeing "the development of some of the most iconic players to have played for Liverpool Football Club".

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.