The executive committee of European football’s governing body met this week. The board discussed plans drawn up by FIFA to have a World Cup every two years, with the Euro finals increasing their frequency as well. UEFA is in strict opposition to FIFA’s project.
UEFA calls FIFA’s prospect of having a biennial World Cup a “promotional campaign”, warning about the ‘danger’ it sees if the proposal becomes formal. The European officials call for consultations with FIFA and claim their previous request for a special meeting was left unanswered. On Monday, FIFA announced a new phase of its consultation process. The World Football Association will host a virtual summit which all national associations can attend on 30 September. FIFA formally addressed stakeholders too, as confederations, clubs associations, and players’ unions were invited to attend its event.
In UEFA’s opinion, a biennial World Cup would not only affect players but also decrease the interest in the competition and stop the progress of women’s football.
“These are just some of the serious concerns that the FIFA proposal provokes at first glance and they cannot be dispelled simply with unsubstantiated promotional slogans on the supposed benefits of a thicker calendar for final tournaments,” UEFA’s statement read.
“In this phase, the respect for a consultation process with the stakeholders – which should be unbiased – would suggest abstaining from promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts that nobody has been given the possibility to see in detail and which have wide-ranging, often unexpected, effects,” UEFA’s release adds.
Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s chief, wants a vote on the proposal from member associations before the end of the year. UEFA president Aleksandar Ceferin threatened the European national sides could boycott the World Cup, in case radical changes to the current format were approved. Regarded with skepticism in Europe and South America, the World Cup revolution is said to be seen in a different light by the other confederations’ members.
UEFA statement on proposals for a biennial World Cup ⬇️
— UEFA (@UEFA) September 22, 2021
ECA accuses FIFA of trying to ‘railroad through’ reform plans
The idea to have a biennial World Cup was first advanced by the Saudi Arabian football association and was approved at FIFA Congress in May.
Arsenal legendary manager Arsene Wenger turned FIFA consultant drew up the final format for the ‘new World Cup’, with legends like Ronaldo, Schmeichel, or Michael Owen backing his perspective. Wenger promised a revolution in the international games system, reducing the qualifying phase to just two windows per season. Also, the Frenchman assured players they will have their summer breaks as they do now.
The European Club Association (ECA) believes changes to the international match calendar shouldn’t be “railroaded in the singular interests of FIFA.”
The ECA represents 247 leading European clubs. The association assisted recent debate with “grave concern” and “alarm”. ECA thinks FIFA’s plans will have a “direct and destructive impact” on the game at a domestic and international level. “Players’ wellbeing [will be] at risk”, also diluting the value of the major international competitions.
The ECA also criticized FIFA for the “lack of genuine consultation” regarding the proposals they made. The clubs’ association asks for reforms, but in a different way than FIFA understands to have them.
“Given the centrality of the International Match Calendar to club football and club football to the International Match Calendar, ECA reiterates in the most unambiguous terms that any decisions relating to its future can only come about with the consent of football clubs, with player welfare at their heart – and in keeping with legally binding obligations which ordinarily should not need re-stating,” ECA writes in a statement.
“In short, the reform of the International Match Calendar must be founded on jointly-agreed outcomes, balanced in the interests of all, following honest and detailed consultation – not simply railroaded in the singular interests of FIFA on the back of a series of PR campaigns,” the release adds.