Why FIFA offers a biennial World Cup

Gianni Infantino (TEAMtalk)

FIFA will host an online summit on December 20 to discuss the feasibility of a biennial World Cup, rather than holding the competition every four years.

The proposal met with broad opposition from leagues, players and fan groups, but notably received support from the Confederation of African Football (CAF), which represents 54 of FIFA’s 211 member associations.

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AFP Sport examines the logic behind FIFA’s plans:

What are the main reasons for FIFA’s proposal?

FIFA’s central argument is that a biennial World Cup would create more profits that could be distributed to the federations in Africa, Asia and South America, which are more dependent on FIFA funds than the rich. European leagues.

President Gianni Infantino also wants to “make football truly global” and open the tournament to smaller countries, which will be partially addressed by the expansion to 48 teams from 2026.

“When we scratch below the surface we see that top football is very much confined to a small group of countries,” Infantino said this week in Doha. “It’s our job to close that gap.”

No team outside of Europe or South America has ever reached the World Cup final. Next year’s tournament will be the first in the Middle East, with 16 of the previous 21 editions hosted by members of UEFA or CONMEBOL.

Infantino not only wants more World Cups, but also more common hosts.

“Right now the World Cup hasn’t returned to a continent for 24 years and it’s over a generation.”

Who came out in favor?

CAF last month gave its backing to FIFA’s proposal, while CONCACAF – which covers North America, Central America and the Caribbean – and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) declared themselves open to the idea. It is likely to appeal to the Oceania region as well.

Only five African nations will go to Qatar, prompting Ivorian coach Patrice Beaumelle to accuse FIFA recently of “killing African football” after his team were knocked out of qualifying.

CONCACAF said in September that it would consider proposals to overhaul the international calendars for men’s, women’s and junior football if it were to create a more balanced structure for the sport on a global scale.

FIFA has also recruited a host of former players and coaches, known as “legends” who get paid as ambassadors, to promote the project, including former Manchester United and Denmark goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.

After a rally in Doha, Schmeichel said “we all agreed”. Brazilian World Cup winner Ronaldo insisted that if you asked the two current best players in the world, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, “I’m sure they will all say yes.”

How will this affect other competitions?

Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s global development manager, suggested organizing a major international tournament every year, alternating between World Cups and continental events like the European Championship and the Copa America.

The space would be created, he claims, by holding all qualifying matches in October, or October and March, rather than spacing them out throughout the year.

The prospect of more international men’s competitions may distract from women’s football, but two-time Women’s World Cup-winning coach Jill Ellis says the potential to spur growth cannot be ignored .

“The world championships are only important points in upping our game, not just in terms of the economic engine of the sponsors who come to the table, but I think participation probably increases after these events as well,” said Ellis, who ruled the United States. for the World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019.

“There are a lot of reasons for us to dig in this.”

What about player welfare concerns?

Wenger refutes the argument that players face increased tension, saying they would have to take fewer long journeys and have a minimum of 25 days off after playing in summer tournaments for their country.

No timeline has been given for the implementation of FIFA’s proposal, but there is broad consensus that the international match schedule – for which an agreement is in place until 2024 – needs to be reformed.

Manchester City and Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne has said that a biennial competition is “not a bad idea”, as long as players have more time to rest at the end of the season.

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