Saturday, January 22

FIFA’s proposal for the biennial World Cup is a ridiculous plan that could become a reality | World Cup

ISounds very attractive, doesn’t it? A World Cup or European Championship every summer, which allows us to gorge ourselves like an Augustus Gloop footballer most of the year. Never mind the risk of burnout, higher TV subscription fees, the game becoming even more bloated; just listen to the clink of nickel and copper in the FIFA coffers.

However, such a proposal is about to surprise us, without most people realizing, just like the 48-team World Cup, a ridiculous idea that came true. On Friday, Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s head of world football development, even suggested that a new football calendar could be decided for December, with alternative World Cups and Euros from 2028 onwards.

Wenger also raised the idea that qualifying matches will be played in October and perhaps March, with groups of four playing six games and the first two in a summer final. In the meantime, players would have a 25-day break before starting again.

“We must recognize that society demands more and more emotional and high-risk matches,” Wenger explained to L’Équipe. “Even Euro 2020, which took place two months ago, seems far away. I think the football public no longer wants the playoffs to last a year and a half. They can be concentrated in four or five weeks ”.

Wenger is a reasonable man and a lot of this sounds perfectly reasonable. Who doesn’t want fewer nonsensical international matches? Dig a little deeper, though, and Wenger begins to sound more like an infomercial salesman who insists that Diamonique pendant that you do not need, or initially want, will improve your life. Profits are inflated; costs ignored.

When Wenger was asked how fans would react if there were no club games in October, for example, his answer was downright bizarre. “The real question is whether to continue the status quo (five 10-day meetings in September, October, November, March and June) or to combine the playoffs.” As for one of the great minds in the game, that is dodging the question.

What about the clubs, which pay the salaries of the players? According to Wenger, they should be happy too. “The clubs will have the players to themselves for at least seven months! They have everything to win, ”he says.

Here’s a scent of late Wenger at Arsenal: part romantic, part illusory. But, to put it mildly, many clubs do not share his point of view. I was told that the recent meeting of the board of directors of the Association of European Clubs, which represents the 247 clubs in Europe, in Istanbul was supposed to debate a multitude of issues, but was quickly overtaken by “universal outrage” over the conduct. from FIFA, with demands from ECA and Uefa to counterattack.

That counter-offensive has already begun, with UEFA President Alexander Ceferin voicing his “grave concerns” about a biennial World Cup and also criticizing FIFA, and will continue when the ECA meets in Geneva this week.

French defender Raphaël Varane poses with the 2018 World Cup trophy.
French defender Raphaël Varane poses with the 2018 World Cup trophy. Photograph: NurPhoto / Getty Images

There is also mounting anger that despite all its “union” public relations talk, FIFA is trying to push for a radical overhaul with little consultation and before a feasibility study is concluded. As one club source put it: “They want football stakeholders to be together when it is in the interest of FIFA. Other than that, the union is thrown out the window on the FIFA superhighway. “

It doesn’t help that suspicions persist about FIFA’s involvement in the embryonic stages of the failed European Super League. Some have also pointed out that Saudi Arabia, a close ally of FIFA President Gianni Infantino, made the initial proposal for a biennial World Cup. How long, they ask, before Riyadh is rewarded with a tournament?

Besides, it is also somewhat ironic that Wenger, who used to constantly complain about too many international matches, is now the face of a biennial World Cup, and it is also strange that he insists that money is not a factor. “The idea is really to improve the quality of the game and the competitions, there is no financial intention behind that,” he says.

If you believe that, I have a lot of £ 1,000 notes for you. It’s about money and power, with FIFA trying to isolate Europe and weaken UEFA.

What could stop it? Uefa and ECA will certainly try, but even critics of FIFA admit that it probably has the votes. The fan groups are also strongly opposed to him, but this issue does not ignite the passions as the European Super League did. There will be no protests outside FIFA headquarters. Do not burn effigies of Infantino. There are no angry calls for ministers to intervene.

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But as Football Supporters Europe noted in a letter to Ceferin last week: “Most fans look forward to the World Cup precisely because it is a one-time event that only happens every four years. They don’t have an unlimited amount of time, money, or enthusiasm to spend on flights, lodging and tickets, or TV subscriptions. “

As the FSE also noted: “There is no doubt that football urgently needs reform … but doubling the number of World Cups will not solve its problems.”

Perhaps the only hope for a turnaround is for the game’s superstars to enter. Could FIFA really ignore Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappé?

For now, however, we are reduced to stating the obvious. A World Cup every two years will not benefit football or the fans. Simply FIFA.

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