FIFA’s proposal to host a biennial World Cup has sparked controversy among footballing giants.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has continued to push forward plans for the World Cup to become biennial, meaning it will be played every two years, not four, despite the idea being rejected outright by high level personalities.
The football body is conducting a feasibility study to consider a biennial event for both men’s and women’s tournaments, although Union of European Football Associations president Aleksander Ceferin argued that this would jeopardize the “gem” of the game and said the idea will “dilute” the tournament.
“We believe the World Cup gem is valuable precisely because of its rarity. Holding it every two years will reduce legitimacy and unfortunately dilute the World Cup itself, ”the UEFA president said at a meeting of the European Club Association in Geneva.
“Our players don’t need to see more of their summers spent in tournaments rather than being spent relaxing and recovering,” he said in front of 160 club officials.
ECA president and Paris Saint-Germain general manager Nasser Al-Khelaifi also aimed at the idea, warning that changes to the calendar of international sporting events require “honest engagement, not unilateral and self-serving decisions. “.
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“Overly-scheduled and disrupted matches put the health and well-being of players at risk – and clubs bear all the risks,” Al-Khelaifi said.
“International competition cannot stifle the relationships of fans and players with clubs, without which international competition would not exist. “
The debate is led by former Arsenal boss and FIFA’s head of world football development Arsene Wenger.
On Friday, Wenger offered to host the World Cup or European Championship every summer. He also suggested holding qualifiers throughout October, instead of an 18-month period, and said he hoped decisions would be finalized by December.
Meanwhile, UEFA and most clubs strongly rejected the idea, with Ceferin also blaming FIFA for not consulting officials properly.
England manager Gareth Southgate confirmed earlier that he had met with Wenger to discuss the proposal. He said he was “open-minded” to the idea, but football “cannot continue to increase the workload for players.
“I’m not overwhelmingly pro or negative about the concept, but I think it needs a lot more thinking,” he said.
“As a traditionalist he feels you might lose some of the World Cup’s allure because its rarity makes it more important. But I also understand that if you’re an injured player for the World Cup, you might only get one chance every eight years, and that’s really tough.
Speaking on Monday, Al-Khelaifi also addressed the controversial Super League campaign which was halted earlier this year.
“I won’t spend a lot of time talking about April 18 and the ‘not-so-great league’ because I don’t like to focus on fabulists and chess,” he said at the first big rally. clubs since the pandemic. he said.
“As the three rebel clubs squander their energies, distort narratives and continue to cry out to heaven, the rest of us are moving forward and focusing all of our energies on building a better future for European football – together as one. “
In May, Wenger said he wanted to see the two majors, the World Cup and the European Championship, played out every two years and “take out everyone else.”
Infantino said a “fundamental” overhaul of the international calendar was needed and without “taboo subjects”.
“We shouldn’t take it as some kind of challenge and fight,” he said of the Wenger consultation. “It’s a way to make world football strong. We have to give the fans even more reasons to appreciate our sport.
“The door to FIFA is open to any idea and any proposal.”
The idea first emerged after the Saudi Football Association asked FIFA to undergo a feasibility study in May.
Some Asian countries have agreed to organize a biennial tournament.
“A four-year gap between the FIFA World Cup is too big – and the window of opportunity is too small – to prevent entire generations of talent,” said minnows from Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and from Sri Lanka in a joint statement.
“Less than a quarter of the current AFC member associations have been represented in nearly a century of FIFA World Cup finals in a situation where these tournaments are the real engines of development.”
The football governing body insists it is a consultation process without “predetermined goals,” and Wenger stressed that there was no financial incentive behind it.
Infantino previously pushed to expand the World Cup from 32 teams to 48, and was successful. The reform was officially signed almost five years ago and will take effect from 2026.
The Men’s World Cup has been held every four years since the inaugural event in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II.
The women’s tournament has also been held every four years since its launch in 1991.