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World Club Championship Monday, 20 December, 1999, 22:07 GMT
Football's global power struggle
Sepp Blatter: Fifa's man with the World Club plan
The World Club Championship has caused major controversy in England, with debate over Manchester United's decision to pull out of the FA Cup reaching the heart of government.

But the coverage has been parochial, with little said about the wider part the tournament has played in the world of football politics.

The globe already has an international club championship, one that has been played every year except two since 1960.

Key issues
Fifa's wish to be involved with rich major clubs
Uefa's need to satisfy the club's wishes
Blatter's proposal that Euro championships become World Cup qualifiers
Increased power for other continents means less for Europe
The Intercontinental Cup is a one-off match between Europe's champions and the South American title-holders, won by Real Madrid and Manchester United in the past two years.

Now known as the Toyota Cup, the annual December match will continue to be held in Tokyo until at least 2002.

So rather like boxing, football now has two world titles. Or three, if you include the one that has always really mattered - the four-yearly World Cup for international teams.

World Club Championship
Football has always had a battle between club and country, but in recent years it has intensified as the fixture list has grew more crowded and the clubs became increasingly powerful.

Fifa, as guardians of the world game, always had the World Cup as their flagship.

But they could not ignore the increasing power of the big clubs, and chairman Sepp Blatter's answer was to hold a World Club Championship.

Playing politics

However the new tournament was not only seen as part of a defensive strategy, but also as an offensive weapon in Fifa's power struggle with European governing body Uefa.

Lennart Johansson: Uefa's chief, defeated by Blatter for Fifa job
Although Uefa's president Lennart Johansson eventually came out in support of the new championship, many within his body still have their doubts.

The European confederation have not agreed to send a representative to any future tournaments, and United's FA Cup decision has increased their antipathy.

Uefa's fear is that a regular world club event would be hard to fit into the calendar - particularly when they are already packing it with more of their own Champions League matches.

The Fifa versus Uefa battle goes back further than recent arguments about this event.

Struggle for power
Jul 1996: Uefa's influence weakened on Fifa executive despite African support
Jul 1998: Blatter beats Johansson to Fifa's chair
Jul 1998: Breakaway Super League planned
Oct 1998: Champions League expanded instead
Jan 1999: Blatter proposes biennial World Cup
Jul 1999: Uefa accuses Fifa of forcing Man Utd out of FA Cup, Johansson reportedly tells Blatter: "Enough is enough"
Oct 1999: Fifa says world tournament should be regular feature
Swede Johansson and Blatter were involved in a bitter election campaign for the Fifa chairmanship, which the German won in 1998.

And Fifa have sought to reduce Uefa's influence by offering the emerging football continents such as Africa more influence, including extra places at the World Cup.

Meanwhile Uefa have spent time trying to get the Africans to back their own plan to reduce Fifa's influence.

But the European governors' most powerful allies are the continent's major clubs, who recently threatened to marginalise Uefa by breaking away and forming a continent-wide Super League.

The policy of creating more club matches was in direct opposition to Blatter's view that international games are the true pinnacle of the game.

And in January 1999, Blatter made an announcement that was a red rag to Uefa's bull.

December's World Cup draw: Fifa sees internationals as the game's pinnacle
He expressed a desire for a World Cup every two years, with Uefa's own international tournaments such as next summer's Euro 2000 reduced to the status of a qualifying tournament for the World Cup.

European's football governors reacted with horror, as did the clubs already concerned at the number of international matches their prize assets have to play.

Where else, they asked, do businesses have to loan out their most valuable commodities to another, with no guarantee that they will not come back damaged?

The first World Club Championship is on a trial basis, and while there is guarantee that it will happen again, Blatter is intent on making sure it does.

If it is a financial success, the clubs will surely be keen to contine to take the millions on offer, while complaining about playing too many games.

Meanwhile the Brazilian fans and the world television audience will simply hope that the matches are good enough to make it all worthwhile.

Links to more World Club Championship stories are at the foot of the page.

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