World Cup ban for rival league

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ZURICH — Soccer’s biggest names would be banned from the World Cup if they play in a breakaway European Super League, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said Wednesday.

The idea is if you break away, you break away. You don’t keep one foot in and one foot out

Infantino, speaking to a small group of reporters at FIFA headquarters, said the governing body would punish players at clubs like Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich if they left soccer’s organized structure to form a privately-owned league.

“Either you are in or you are out,” Infantino said, listing the World Cup, European Championship and national leagues as competitions that players from breakaway teams could be excluded from. “This includes everything.”

Talk of a long-threatened super league was revived Friday when German magazine Der Spiegel published confidential documents and emails from clubs and soccer bodies in its “Football Leaks” series.

Real Madrid was revealed to be working with consultants on a 16-team Super League to kick off in 2021 — effectively replacing the Champions League and outside the control of UEFA.

The plan called for 11 storied clubs from Spain, England, Germany, Italy and France to get ownership stakes and risk-free Super League membership for 20 years, with five more clubs invited to play.

The breakaway from soccer’s historic hierarchy — FIFA, the six continental bodies and 211 national federations — would allow FIFA to ban players from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The Club World Cup is the answer to any attempt to think even about any sort of breakaway leagues.

“The idea is if you break away, you break away. You don’t keep one foot in and one foot out,” FIFA deputy secretary general Alasdair Bell said. “That would be the general approach we would follow, but of course lawyers can debate this for a long time.”

Both Infantino and Bell were long-time staffers at UEFA, which has steadily changed Champions League prize money and entry rules to favor top clubs and stall breakaway threats.

“This is the history of the last 20 years,” said Infantino, who has clashed this year with European soccer officials and club leaders over FIFA’s proposed Club World Cup project, which is funded by Japanese investor SoftBank.

Infantino said his plan — potentially featuring 12 European clubs in a 24-team lineup, and worth a promised $3 billion every four years — could head off a private closed league.

“The Club World Cup is the answer to any attempt to think even about any sort of breakaway leagues,” he said.

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