• Kyodo

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The Japan Football Association has decided to relinquish its right to host this year's Club World Cup due to the country's COVID-19 restrictions and is in discussions with FIFA, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

The JFA was preparing to host the tournament for the first time in five years as part of its centennial celebrations, but the risk of increasing infections and difficulty in turning a profit due to a likely cap on spectators swayed the decision, they said.

FIFA is undecided over the backup host or dates, and the tournament to decide the world's top club side — normally held in December — could be pushed back until sometime after the turn of the year, the sources said.

The Emperor's Cup final, traditionally scheduled for New Year's Day, could be brought forward to the Dec. 19 time slot vacated by the Club World Cup, they added.

It would allow domestic players some time to rest with the Japan national side scheduled to take part in 2022 World Cup final Asian qualifiers on Jan. 27 and Feb. 1.

The decision was a tough one for the JFA. The tournament's predecessor, the Toyota Cup, pitted Europe's champion against their South American counterpart in a one-off match — an annual spectacle that was one of the highlights of Japan's soccer calendar.

The current tournament, contested between club champions from six confederations as well as a host representative, was expected to generate a profit for the JFA thanks to full crowds of over 60,000 for the semifinals and final at Yokohama Stadium.

But restrictions in place for the pandemic would have meant an operating loss for the JFA.

The JFA's profit for fiscal 2020 dropped by ¥5 billion from fiscal 2019 to ¥15 billion ($136 million). Having few to no spectators at national team matches has forced the federation to "dip into its savings" this fiscal year, leaving the association unable to afford hosting further matches according to JFA President Kozo Tashima.

The JFA this year has already given up on hosting FIFA's Congress as well as a friendly match against England.

"Unless we forge a path to where events can be staged in coexistence with the virus, soccer as well as other sports won't be able to maintain themselves," a senior JFA official said.

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