Report: FIFA's Gianni Infantino Being Pressured to Explain His Role with Super League

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 28, 2021

FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday, March 3, 2020, FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses a meeting of European soccer leaders at the congress of the UEFA governing body in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Infantino has tested positive for COVID-19, and according to a statement FIFA says Infantino “has reported mild symptoms, has immediately placed himself in self-isolation and will remain in quarantine at least for ten days.” (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, FILE)
AP Photo/Peter Dejong

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is reportedly under pressure to explain the extent of his involvement in the planning for the failed European Super League project.

ESPN's James Olley reported Friday there's "widespread dismay" among high-profile soccer clubs throughout Europe after La Liga President Javier Tebas alleged Infantino was listed in Super League documents as "W01," standing for "World Number One," and it made teams believe FIFA supported the project.

If Infantino took part in the planning process or gave his clearance to announce the ESL, it would be in opposition of public stance against its creation, per Olley.

The Super League was founded April 18 with 12 clubs: six from England and three apiece from Italy and Spain. Plans called for three more permanent members and five annual berths available via qualification. The league was suspended just two days later amid widespread backlash.

UEFA, which was concerned about the future of the Champions League, threatened to ban all players who took part in ESL matches from all FIFA competitions, including Euro 2020 and the World Cup. It was a stance that made it appear FIFA was against the project.

Yet, clubs involved in its creation say they were "led to believe during negotiations to join the Super League that FIFA were on board," and argue they wouldn't have moved forward with the announcement if the sport's governing body wasn't involved, per Olley.

Last week, Infantino denied speculation he'd colluded with the Super League clubs behind the scenes, but he also confirmed the ESL was a "topic of discussion:"

"We should look at the facts not rumors or corridor gossip. I have worked in different positions of relevance in football for decades.
"I have spoken to many clubs and Super League was a topic of discussion, everybody in football knows that. In 16 years at UEFA, we always managed to manage it, there were projects far more advanced than recent ones.
"It is FIFA's responsibility to discuss football with stakeholders. Now to listen to some clubs and speak with them, it doesn't mean that FIFA was behind, colluding or plotting with any Super League project."

Infantino's uncertain role is part of a wild final few days as the ESL stakeholders tried to finalize agreements with the clubs, and one source told ESPN his club was lied to about who'd committed to the project.

"Who do you believe in that situation?" the executive said. "Do you join the train leaving the station or stand your ground and take a club at their word? Someone was obviously lying. The amount of lying going on at the highest level among clubs was unbelievable. Relationships have been irreparably damaged in some cases."

So, while the Super League was quickly dispatched, it appears there are lingering tensions between the clubs and unanswered questions about where FIFA's president stood throughout the process.