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FIFA to carry out study on holding World Cup every two years

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MANCHESTE: FIFA will carry out a feasibility study on holding the World Cup and the women’s World Cup every two years after backing a proposal at its annual congress on Friday.

The two competitions are currently held every four years but the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) put forward a proposal for a study of the impact of switching to every two years.

“We believe the future of football is at a critical juncture. The many issues that football has faced have now been further exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic,” said SAFF president Yasser Al-Misehal.

“It is time to review how the global game is structured and to consider what is best for the future of our sport. This should include whether the current four year cycle remains the optimum basis for how football is managed both from a competition and commercial perspective,” he added.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino called it an “eloquent and detailed proposal” with 166 national federations voting in favour with 22 voting against.

Speaking after the congress, Infantino told reporters that the study would look at the competitions within the context of the review of the overall international match calendar.

“It doesn’t matter right now what I think, it matters what results the study is coming up with,” he said.

“We have to go into this study with an open mind… we know about the value of the World Cup believe me, we know as well about the impact that the World Cup can have.” But Infantino questioned whether the current system of regular qualifiers throughout a year ahead of a continental championships and World Cups was the best model.

“Do we really think this is the right way for football when we are hearing that fans say they want more meaningful games, less meaningless games, all of these points have to be considered.

“We will discuss it, we will analyse it but we will, in all discussions, put the sporting element as a priority not the commercial element,” he said, saying he knew that holding twice as many World Cups would not mean doubling the revenue.

Infantino also called for an overhaul of the international football calendar beyond 2024, insisting on a requirement to start with a “blank sheet of paper”.

“Let me be very clear: the starting point is not ‘the calendar is full and so nothing changes’,” he told the 71st FIFA Congress.

“The starting point is the exact opposite of that. We have a blank sheet, we are open to take on board all views and opinions about how we can make the international calendar better.” Infantino reiterated his intention to “find a date” for a Club World Cup which he wants to see extended to 24 teams, despite widespread opposition to the plan.

However, he argued at length Friday for FIFA to play a key role in rewriting the calendar. He said the organisation is the “only body” that “generates” and “redistributes” its revenues “around the world” unlike continental confederations and leagues.

“Let me explain,” he added Friday. “Today, big leagues generate billions in revenues from all over the world – and these revenues are distributed where? To the 18-20 clubs in their leagues, with a small percentage going in solidarity.”

“The only body which is generating revenues from all over the world and redistributing and investing all over the world in solidarity is FIFA.”

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2021

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