KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- A survey by world players’ association FIFPRO has determined that 75pc of top men footballers around the world are opposed to world federation FIFA’s push to stage the World Cup finals every two years.

The survey made undertaken among 1,000 current professionals from across six continents and more than 70 nationalities. Its results contrast strongly with the former players on FIFA Legends programme who have religiously toed the Zurich party line.

Strongest opposition to changing the tournament from its historic four-year cycle emanated from Europe and Asia with 77pc of players preferring the status quo.

Prize at the end of so many rainbows

Some 63pc in the Americas were opposed too, but in Africa 49pc of players supporting the current format with the rest split between a two- or three-year cycle.

The survey featured in a FIFPRO study into player workload and the football calendar, with the union having expressed frequent concerns that elite players, especially those playing at international level, face greater risk of injury and burnout from overplaying.

General secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said: “survey shows most footballers around the world have a clear preference to play the World Cup every four years. At the same time, the results demonstrate the importance of domestic league competitions to players.

“These leagues are the bedrock of our game and we have to do more to strengthen them both for the sake of players and the overall stability of professional football.”

Online summit

In December FIFA invited all 211 member associations to an online summit which had originally been expected to rubber-stamp the World Cup switch proposal which has angered European and South American football, not to mention the Olympic sports world.

FIFA used the occasion to present a 700-page analysis of the footballing and financial prospects from major changes to the international match calendar. But the “middle way” championed by president Gianni Infantino may take many months, if not years, to emerge.

Indeed Infantino conceded significant changes to the calendar of youth competition or women’s football might need to be taken independently of the senior men’s international match calendar.

The feasibility study has been led by development director Arsene Wenger whose ambition is to generate greater funds for what he portrayed as a poverty-smitten football world beyond powerful Europe.

Infantino concern

Infantino has intimated that critics from UEFA and CONMEBOL were self-interested protectionists denying the rest of the game access to comparative promotional, educational and developmental funding.

He had said: “We have been advised that a switch to biennial FIFA World Cup would provide a combined additional $4.4bn in revenue from the first four-year cycle.

“This would allow solidarity funding to move from the current level of $6m per cycle to up to potentially $25m on average.”

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