IFA to pay £300m to clubs to release players for 2026 World Cup tournament

FIFA’s compensation paid to clubs that re­lease players for the men’s World Cup has been increased by nearly 70 per cent to £300m for the 2026 and 2030 tournaments, the global soccer governing body and the Europe­an Club Association (ECA) said yesterday.

The Club Benefits Programme affords clubs a share of national team competition revenues in re­turn for releasing players, and also protects clubs in case their players are injured on international duty.

The previous amount ear­marked for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups was £170m. A re­newed Memorandum of Under­standing was signed on Monday at the ECA General Assembly in Budapest, Hungary.

“We are delighted to have signed this landmark agreement,” ECA Chairman, Nasser Al-Khe­laifi said.

“The MoU recognises the central role of clubs in football globally and ensures that they are properly represented in decision making around issues which affect them.”

The 2026 World Cup finals in the United States, Canada and Mexico will feature a record 104 games, including a new last-32 stage, after FIFA scrapped its controversial plans for three-team groups.

The extended 48-team tournament will run for 38 or 39 days – instead of 32 in Qatar – and consist of 12 groups of four, with the top two and the eight best third-placed sides progressing to the knockout stages. There will be 40 more matches than were played at Qatar 2022, raising fresh con­cerns about player welfare.

FIFA said its decision to ditch the three-group format had come after a “thorough review that considered sporting integrity, player welfare, team travel, commercial and sporting attractiveness, as well as team and fan experience.”

The expanded tournament and revised calendar are expected to anger European clubs and leagues, who claimed they have not been consulted.

In December, the World Leagues Forum, the world asso­ciation of professional football leagues criticised FIFA for its proposed calendar changes and accused it of “acting unilaterally without consulting, let alone agree­ing with those who are directly affected by them: the leagues, their member clubs, the players and fans.” —SkySports/TheGuardian

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