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Australia aims to follow USA in ‘building’ FIFA’s Club World Cup

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Australia’s football chief James Johnson believes his country can help FIFA turn their new Club World Cup into a global success as he seeks to get in the driving seat for the bidding process.

Australia last month opted not to bid for the 2034 World Cup after facing competition from Saudi Arabia, who is the only bidder for the tournament.

But Johnson, CEO of Football Australia, believes the new 32-team Club World Cup, which will debut in the United States in 2025, would more than compensate for missing out on the game’s biggest event.

“I’m very excited by this,” Johnson told  AFP in an interview on Monday ahead of this week’s Soccerex conference in Miami.

“There’s an opportunity there. 32 teams, 64 matches, played over one month. We’ve got the biggest teams in the world coming together and fighting it out to be world champion of the Club Football. It’s extremely interesting,” he said.

The current Club World Cup features just seven clubs from six confederations and has struggled to grab attention.

Johnson believes though that once the new tournament, with 12 elite European clubs and eight top teams from South America, has made an impact in the USA, its prestige will be transformed.

“The competition needs to be built. We can’t wait to see what happens here in the United States in 2025. We believe that we can help build that competition, take it to a new level, like what we saw with the Women’s World Cup in Australia,” he added.

European clubs, fans and broadcasters have shown little interest in the old Club World Cup but Johnson believes that will change with the chance to compete in a full tournament outside their traditional markets.

– Fill stadiums –

“Australia is a great market for European clubs. Every summer, European summer, we have big clubs coming to Australia,” he said.

“We know that we can fill stadiums. We never have problems with selling tickets in any sport. We’re also in a great region for broadcast. It’s an area of the world that is going to work for the clubs in terms of their brand.

“I think having an edition both in America and then in Asia, you’ll be able to cross-promote and I think it would be a nice package to kick off the first two editions of the Club World Cup,” he added.

Johnson said FIFA’s bidding process for the 2034 World Cup “came around a little bit quicker than what we were anticipating, so that was a little bit of a surprise. But it wasn’t the reason we opted not to do it.”

Instead, he says, the chance to follow up on the success of the Women’s World Cup, with the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026, which Australia is also bidding for and the Club World Cup three years later was the perfect way to keep momentum ahead of the Brisbane Olympic Games in 2032.

“I felt that putting our time and our resources and our investment into the Women’s 26th Asian Cup, Club World Cup in 29 was better than flipping the coin and seeing what we could do for 34. I think if we had gone for 34 it might have impacted on our ability to focus on 26,” he said.

The former Australia youth international, who previously worked for FIFA and the Manchester City-owned City Football Group, said another factor was that the expanded 48-team World Cup meant they would likely have had to find other countries to co-host.

Johnson said hosting this year’s Women’s World Cup had led to a surge in participation in the game among girls and massive interest in the Australian team, nicknamed the Matildas, who reached the semi-final.

“The Matildas are bringing in the same amount of sponsorship and broadcast value as our men, if not more,” he said.

“Sponsors, government, broadcast partners, the amount of interest in this team and the visibility of the team itself, but also individual players in the Australian sports market, it’s incredible.

“Our market’s never seen anything like this on the women’s side,” he added.

Johnson hopes that commercial interest will help the Asian Football Confederation choose the country to hold its next women’s tournament in 2026.

“If we were to be given the hosting rights, it will without doubt be the biggest and best ever Women’s Asian Cup in history,” he said.

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