World Club Championship gone until 2003
Updated: Friday May 18, 2001 3:39 PM
LONDON (Reuters) -- FIFA has postponed the 2001 World Club Championship, due to kick off in Spain at the end of July, until 2003, officials said on Friday.
FIFA blamed financial problems and a congested fixture list for the postponement which is a major embarrassment for world soccer's ruling body and its president Sepp Blatter.
The tournament, which FIFA had been planning to extend from 12 to 16 teams, was set for only its second edition in Spain.
It would have involved clubs who have won major championships in FIFA's six continental confederations plus a host team, Deportivo Coruna.
Blatter said: "The decision not to go ahead with this event as scheduled has been taken on account of various factors."
FIFA's statement identified three main reasons for the setback.
"The period during which the competition was to be staged is particularly inconvenient from the perspective of national and international fixtures [national leagues and Champions League qualifiers are in progress].
"The economic crises affecting the countries of some of the participating clubs further heighten existing commercial difficulties."
The third hurdle was the financial problems of ISL Worldwide, which was responsible for marketing major FIFA tournaments including the World Cup in 2002.
FIFA said on Thursday it had terminated its marketing agreement with ISL Worldwide after French media group Vivendi ended talks on a takeover of ISL's troubled parent company ISMM.
On Friday, FIFA said: "The current commercial market has been considerably disrupted by the problems confronting ISL/ISMM. This has left FIFA's marketing partner for the event, Traffic, confronted by major difficulties in selling the 2001 edition to sponsors and broadcasters."
FIFA added: "With the 12-team tournament just over two months away and given the fact that FIFA will have to take on additional responsibilities due to the imminent bankruptcy of ISL/ISMM...the Emergency Committee also felt that it was essential for FIFA to readjust its focus to these issues."
FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said the impending bankruptcy of ISL had been the final straw.
"If you are already facing two difficulties it would be too much to take on another," he told Reuters.
FIFA said it had discussed the matter with the tournament's would-be hosts, the Spanish Football Federation.
The inaugural club championship, won by Brazil's Corinthians, took place in January last year in Brazil and the event in Spain was due to take place from July 28 to August 12.
Clubs taking part would have included Argentina's Boca Juniors, Palmeiras of Brazil and Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal.
Prize money totaled 40 million dollars with the winners taking home eight million.
FIFA's eight-member emergency committee made the decision to postpone the event through correspondence and sent their confirmation in writing to the world body's Zurich headquarters.
"The members were all briefed and had all the necessary information including the details of the ISL decision as soon as it became available," said Herren. "They were given a straight question -- go ahead or postpone given all the information."
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