FIFA pushes for biennial World Cup amid member worries –

In an effort to get more of its members to support the idea of ​​a biennial World Cup, the main governing body of world football, FIFA, has invited all of its 211 members to an online summit that will have held on September 30.

Opposition to the proposal has been strong. From fans to associations, academics to club owners, many in the football world have expressed concern and do not want to change the 91-year status quo of a tournament every four years. The main supporters so far are a handful of retired players who FIFA invited to Qatar for a two-day event earlier this month, and Saudi Arabia, which proposed the biennial World Cup at the congress. of FIFA last May. FIFA’s plan to take the World Cup from its current four-year cycle to a biennial format is expected to be put to a vote in December.

UEFA, the governing body of European football, is leading the opposition against the proposal of FIFA President Gianni Infantino. On Wednesday, the organization sent an official statement criticizing FIFA’s lack of response to their request to hold a special meeting with their association of 55 members. UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin last week expressed “serious concerns” about the plan, saying it “would dilute the impact of the tournament”. UEFA’s South American counterpart CONMEBOL and the European Club Association (ECA) are also expected to reject FIFA’s proposal. ECA President Nasser Al Khelaifi warned against “unilateral decisions” on the international calendar.

Although UEFA and CONMEBOL do not have enough votes to block the new proposal, the best footballers in the world are playing in their leagues, giving both associations leverage.

Infantino said his association “is consulting players and clubs around the world, as well as the 211 member associations, because they all have the same right to be heard.” Half of the member countries have never qualified for a World Cup, and they could vote to change the schedule as they benefit from playing commercially attractive qualifiers more frequently. Concacaf President and FIFA Vice-President Victor Montagliani hopes that new ideas can emerge from these discussions.

“I think when football stops it’s not a good thing,” Montagliani said. “Because if we take the attitude of still football, we probably have eight teams in the World Cup, and they’ll all be European teams. I think those are good discussions. And to be honest, when people are bad. comfortable with that makes me happy because it’s when you’re uncomfortable that things happen.

Industry experts disagree with FIFA officials. “From an industry perspective, this will be damaging for all the major footballing countries,” Ricardo Fort, owner of consultancy firm Sport by Fort, said in a telephone interview. “Therefore, only the lowest ranked countries in the FIFA rankings defend it. Their leagues are weak and their chances of qualifying are insignificant. They will profit from the fees they will collect from FIFA, and nothing will change in their lives.

Saudi Arabia is the exception. The oil-rich Middle Eastern country, which has pleaded for a biennial World Cup, announced its official candidacy to host the 2034 tournament on September 11.

“I think Saudi Arabia’s money is becoming more and more influential within FIFA,” said Simon Chadwick, author and director of the Center for Eurasian sport at EM Lyon Business School. According to Chadwick, Saudi Arabia has put in around $ 500 million in funding for FIFA, in return for its pivotal role in creating a new Club World Cup, an idea that has been buried quite enough. quickly due to the extreme resistance of European football clubs. .

“Saudi Arabia says, ‘We want a World Cup from you because the money is there and we have accepted it,” Chadwick said. “I am told that China will have 2030 [World Cup], then the earliest Saudi Arabia can host a tournament is 2034. That’s 14 years from now, and clearly Infantino can’t risk losing the Saudi investment. Therefore, that opens up the possibility of 2028 in Saudi Arabia and 2030 in China, and everyone is happy, and FIFA is making its money. Infantino is re-elected. Attempts to reach the federation and Saudi officials for comment were unsuccessful.

Not everyone outside of FIFA would be happy. According to the FIFA survey of 15,000 people, across all age groups and in all geographic areas, the majority preferred a four-year-old World Cup.

FIFA argues that the biennial World Cups will give more players and teams the opportunity to compete, as well as generate more income to fuel football around the world. “When FIFA says that a biennial World Cup will double revenues, it is grossly overestimating its financial potential,” said Fort. “Media rights are the only source of revenue with good growth potential,” Fort said, noting that they are unlikely to double.

Meanwhile, Fort said, “Sponsorships and licensee fees won’t invest much more than they invest today. In fact, for a sponsor, a FIFA World Cup every two years is almost impossible to activate properly.

Existing FIFA broadcast contracts are extended until the 2026 World Cup, which will take place in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Chadwick says that when considering hosting a biennial World Cup, FIFA may want to factor the “Burberry effect” into its decision-making. In the late 1990s, the coat maker promoted its brand and made it more widely available. “But basically more has become less,” Chadwick said. “No one wanted to buy the cheap Burberry. Then they had to turn around and go back to become more exclusive. I think what FIFA can find out is that there are lessons from history. More can very often be less.

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