FIFA announced this week that it will begin discussing proposed changes to the international soccer calendar later this month with international federations, soccer clubs, leagues and players’ associations.
The proposals, which include holding the World Cup every two years, have divided the world of football. Europe, South America and “traditional” football are lined up on the one hand, FIFA and the rest of the world’s football associations, “new fans” and Arsene Wenger on the other.
The decision to go ahead with FIFA’s plans to host the biennial World Cup will likely be made by a vote of FIFA members in December.
From South Asia to the Caribbean, FIFA members have at least lent their support to the discussions on a new international calendar. They want more World Cups because the World Cup is FIFA’s main source of money, and the more money FIFA has, the more it can distribute to member associations.
Since less than a third of the members are from UEFA or CONMEBOL, the rest of the world can vote despite opposition from Europe and South America.
But that doesn’t necessarily make it a final deal.
FIFA may have most of its football associations on its side, but all the most powerful associations are against the proposals. Almost all of the best soccer players in the world practice their craft in Europe or the South American leagues, which also generate almost all of soccer’s income. They have also dominated international soccer, providing all but one of the World Cup semi-finalists since WWII.
When the best clubs in Europe tried to create a “super league”, the threat of a World Cup ban might have made some players think twice. But this time around, Europe and South America can, in theory, push for the championship of their national teams, which won’t look much different from the World Cup, but it will be on their own terms.
This means that UEFA’s proposal to boycott the World Cup is not an empty threat.
For FIFA’s plans for a more regular World Cup to be successful, they will have to reach a compromise with UEFA and CONMEBOL.
The current proposal proposes to reduce the number of international breaks, with only one break in the summer for an international tournament and one or two breaks in the winter for international qualifying or friendly matches. UEFA and CONMEBOL will press for these breaks to be as short as possible.
But those plans could also come under pressure from places like Saudi Arabia, which first proposed the plan for the biennial World Cup. Saudi Arabia has been showing its financial muscle in recent years, bringing high-profile matches and European Cups to Riyadh, and there has been much speculation that it plans to host the World Cup, but as before Qatar. Saudi Arabia may be more suitable for a winter World Cup than a summer World Cup.
It is also possible for African countries to pay for a longer winter break, as this would fit better with the African Cup of Nations.
It is impossible to satisfy everyone’s interests, because table football is a zero-sum game. There are only a limited number of days in the year and all stakeholders want the program to be more beneficial to them.
Many of these stakeholders have already argued their case publicly, trying to win the public relations battle, although many of these claims have been somewhat false.
FIFA released the results of a “fan survey” this week to try to back up its case, but FIFA’s methodology and interpretation of the results have been questioned. 45% of those surveyed said they wanted a World Cup every four years, while 30% wanted one every two years, but the FIFA headline was that most fans wanted more World Cups.
The poll comes despite fan groups around the world voicing their opposition to FIFA’s plan.
Other proponents of more World Cups, such as the Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Maldivian and Nepalese football associations, have argued that the current system was designed without their input, even though they are all out of the top 30 teams in Asia and miles away. away. Qualification for the expanded 48-team World Cup, even if it takes place every two years.
On the other hand, critics of the proposals argued that they would put too much pressure on players who are already overworked, although accompanying changes to the international calendar would reduce the players’ workload. Such allegations have also not stopped UEFA from seeking to increase the number of group stage matches that Champions League teams will play starting in 2024.
Many fans who oppose the changes to the four-year World Cup tournament do so based on romantic notions of the tournament as a rare generational event.
Many of those fans who support his dream of having his country participate in the first soccer world championship.
But romance and dreams will play a minor role in the “new consultation phase” on the new international football calendar, which will ultimately be decided on the basis of money and power.
With money and power mainly in Europe, FIFA will have to compromise if it wants a World Cup every two years.