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play fewer games; FIFA chief wants to reform football's chaotic global calendar.

Byline: NEIL McLEMAN @NeilMcLeman

THE head of FIFA wants fewer matches and tournaments in a brave new football world after the coronavirus crisis is over.

"It's not science fiction, let's talk about it," said Gianni Infantino.

The FIFA president refused to give a date for a return of football, as he insisted "health comes first". But the Swiss lawyer claimed the pause in football because of Covid-19 was also a time for reflection - and a chance to make reforms to a chaotic calendar.

"Surely, everyone is ready to take a step back, like us," Infantino (left) said. "It's difficult right now, we don't know when it will return to normal.

"But we look at the opportunities. We can perhaps reform world football by taking a step back. With different formats. Fewer tournaments, but more interesting. Maybe fewer teams, but more balanced. Fewer games, to protect the health of the players, but more competitive. It's not science fiction, let's talk about it."

Infantino has successfully campaigned for the Club World Cup - currently held by Liverpool - to become a 24-team tournament held every four years despite strong opposition. The first event scheduled for 2021 will now be pushed back because of the one-year suspension of Euro 2020.

But this break could now be used to try and align the dates of different competitions - such as the Euros, Copa America, and the Africa Cup of Nations - before the Qatar World Cup in December 2022.

Big clubs want fewer international windows, but there will also be pressure to reduce the number of domestic matches, by shrinking top flights to 18 clubs and getting rid of the League Cup.

Infantino, who turned 50 yesterday, added: "The Club World Cup and the World Cup are the only source of income for the majority of the federations.

"Without it, in over 100 countries, there wouldn't be any leagues, youth sectors, women's football, or fields.

"In the future, we must have at least 50 national teams that can win the World Cup, not just eight in Europe and two in South America.

"We need 50 clubs that can win the Club World Cup, not just five or six European ones. And 20 of these 50 will be European, which seems better than today's five or six."

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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:NEIL McLEMAN @NeilMcLeman
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 24, 2020
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