KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- FIFA is to study the implications of organising both men and women’s World Cups every two years instead of every four years, as at present.
A proposal to launch a feasibility study was approved by 166 votes to 22 with 21 abstentions. The idea was put forward by the Saudi Arabian federation, surprisingly considering its traditional attitude towards women’s sport.
The likelihood of such a proposal ever being approved is minimal, given that it would prompt the risk of a European walkout in reaction to its threat to the health – and wealth – of a competitive structure built around the busy Champions League and European Championship.
More than a decade ago a similar idea was considered and swiftly rejected by FIFA under the leadership of the now-banned and disgraced Sepp Blatter.
Yasser Al Misehal, the Saudi FA president, proposed the study during FIFA’s annual congress, organised virtually out of Zurich.
He echoed the reasoning of the founders of the recent European Super League fiasco by raising the financial impact of the Covid-19 as a reason for considering a schedule of multiple World Cups.
He quoted the “pandemic and global crisis” as the “time to review the global game’s structure and what is best for the future of our sport – including whether the current four-year cycle is right for how football is managed as well as for the commercial and development perspectives.”
Al Misehal acknowledged the need to analyse a revision of the international match calendar including the logistics of qualifying competitions every two years.
He added: “We could be having fewer yet more meaningful national team matches which would address concerns about player welfare while enhancing the value and merits of such competitions.”
Later FIFA president Gianni Infantino told a press conference: “When I was in UEFA we created a Nations League to give more countries a chance to win [something]. Maybe it doesn’t concern the big countries but it’s important for the other countries to invest in football.
“We have to go into these studies with an open mind. We should certainly not jeopardise what we are doing, we know the value of the World Cup and the impact it can have.
“Are we convinced that qualifying games every September, November, March and June – whether the Euro or the World Cup – is the right way for football when we are saying maybe fans want more meaningful games? All of these points have to be considered.
“We will put the sporting element as a priority not the commercial element. Then we will see but it’s an interesting discussion.”