Is FIFA Kicking Biennial World Cup Concept to the Curb? | Sports Destination Management

Is FIFA Kicking Biennial World Cup Concept to the Curb?

Apr 08, 2022 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Photo © Dinorah Alejandra Arizpe Valdés |

The concept of a biennial World Cup has been kicked around since last year but FIFA seems to be taking a big step back from the concept. In fact, FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, went so far as to say FIFA had never proposed such an idea. (They just studied it, he maintains).

Oh. Okay, then. So what is it?

According to Inside The Games, Infantino, an address given in Qatar, told reporters that FIFA had merely "studied the feasibility” of the concept.

"Let me be very clear that FIFA has not proposed a biennial World Cup," Infantino said. "Let’s get the process clear here. The last FIFA Congress asked the FIFA administration with a vote, which 88 per cent voted in favor, to study the feasibility of a World Cup every two years and some other projects related to women's football and youth football. The FIFA administration, under the leadership of [FIFA chief of global football development] Arsène Wenger, did exactly that. We studied the feasibility. But FIFA did not propose anything. FIFA came to the conclusion that it is feasible, but would it have some repercussions and impacts."

Oh, and pushback. He didn’t mention that, but it’s there, big time. One of the biggest opponents is none other than the IOC. There is, after all, the potential for the World Cup to come into conflict with the Summer Olympics – where soccer is a medal sport. And although FIFA pointed out that any change would be years off, it was nonetheless a point of contention between both organizations.

And there were financial ramifications to consider, according to Reuters, which noted the following:

“A report compiled by KPMG and FTI's Delta Partners, showed the plan, and resulting changes to the Club World Cup, could cost the big domestic soccer leagues and UEFA around 8 billion euros ($8.88 billion) per season in lost TV rights and match day and commercial agreements.

The report, commissioned by the MLS, Mexico, Japan and South African leagues as well as the European big five, said even the least disruptive options would cost them billions annually.

The biggest hit would be to TV revenues. It calculated that the 40 biggest domestic leagues around the world and UEFA club competitions like the Champions League stood to lose as much as 5 billion euros per season in audiovisual deals alone -- more than a third of what the leagues make in TV rights today.”

Inside The Games notes that one of the more vocal critics of the plan was National Olympic Committees of Africa President Mustapha Berraf, who said the move would have a "heavy impact" on the continent and football in general.

"The plan would create immeasurable damage and would put in danger sport and in particular football," said Berraf. "It would simply push away other sports and relegate them to the back benches which is unacceptable and create a rift between women's and men's sport and be a setback to our aim of creating equity and parity for all sports."

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) also opposed the plan and threatened to boycott World Cup games if held every two years.

Recently, Aleksander Ceferin, the president of UEFA, told Sports Pro Media that the proposal was to be taken “off the table,” and to be replaced with an acceptable alternative.

Some suggested options that were floated included the winners of the winners of the European Championships facing off against the Copa America champions in an event that would become a permanent fixture on the international calendar. And FIFA’s vice president, Victor Montagliani, mentioned an idea for a global Nations League or a revamped Confederations Cup; this event, which ended in 2017, served to bring together teams from around the world.

In 2021, SDM conducted a reader poll to gauge opinions on World Cup timing. The answers were as follows:

  • 81.82%: Keep the event every four years
  • 15.15%: Move to every two years
  • 3.03%: I don't know

And it’s not just readers. Reuters notes, “A February poll of 1,000 professional [soccer players], organized by global players' union FIFPRO, showed that three-quarters of them wanted to keep the tournament every four years.”

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