Gianni Infantino fails to attend key meeting with ECA in Doha

Gianni Infantino failed to turn up to a meeting in Doha on Friday between Europe’s top clubs and FIFA as a key new agreement went unsigned.

Sources told the PA news agency that FIFA had invited the European Club Association to hold a board meeting in Qatar during the World Cup, with the specific intention of signing off on a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to start from January 1, when the existing MoU expires.

However, FIFA president Infantino was a no-show for the meeting, despite it taking place in the governing body’s hotel.

The MoU is an agreement covering the international match calendar, rules around the release of players from clubs for national team duty and payments to clubs for national team release.

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Sources close to the matter were baffled as to why Infantino had “gone AWOL”, but are confident the MoU will eventually be signed. However, there is now the possibility of the current agreement expiring without a new one being ready to kick in.

In theory it could mean clubs not releasing players for duty during the next international break in March if no framework exists under which they are obliged to do so, though that is considered unlikely.

The ECA said in a published summary of the meeting that FIFA’s deputy general secretary Mattias Grafstrom did attend, along with senior representatives from five of the continental confederations including UEFA general secretary Theodore Theodoridis.

Also present was Hassan Al Thawadi, the secretary general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee responsible for the organising of the current World Cup.

FIFA declined to comment, however sources close to the organisation said the global governing body had been asked by the ECA to provide logistical help in arranging the meeting.

They added that there were still a few issues to be finalised in any case before the MoU could be signed.

Elsewhere at the meeting, the ECA board expressed an “openness to engage” with the new board of Juventus.

The Turin giants are currently one of three clubs who remain openly committed to the concept of a European Super League, along with Barcelona and Real Madrid.

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However, that position was established under the club’s former president Andrea Agnelli, who stood down from the Juve board late last month amid accusations of false accounting and market manipulation against the club, which are denied.

Discussions also took place at the ECA board meeting concerning the European Super League court case.

The European Court of Justice’s Grand Chamber heard arguments from the Super League in July that UEFA and FIFA had abused a dominant position under EU competition law by blocking the formation of the competition in April 2021 and in seeking to sanction those involved.

The non-binding opinion of the Advocate General in the case is due to be published on Thursday next week.