KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The grand summit once grandiloquently portrayed as launching pad for a biennial World Cup ultimately evolved into a grand online talking shop about ‘levelling up’.
No decision is imminent. Maybe not even next year.
World football federation FIFA used the online occasion to present 207 of its 211 member associations with a 700-page analysis of the footballing and financial prospects from major changes to the international match calendar.
The report headlined promises of a rich new football world for everyone. This may not impress European federation UEFA whose fierce antagonism blocked any prospect of a quick decision.
However FIFA president Gianni Infantino left room open for compromise by telling a media briefing: “We hope that we can make progress one way or the other or some middle way.”
That middle way 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.
Wenger said: “We feel it is important to give more chances to people all over the world and that starts with youth development.”
Infantino developed this theme to portray critics from UEFA and South America’s CONMEBOL as self-interested protectionists denying the rest of the game access to comparative promotional, educational and developmental funding.
Such opposition stemmed, he suggested, from ignorance about the true nature of the proposals. Critics from UEFA, CONMEBOL and the International Olympic Committee would respond that this is because FIFA had not brought them directly into initial discussions.
Wenger’s original bold – and naïve – prediction that a decision would fall before the end of the year has proved badly mistaken. Indeed, Infantino refused to confirm even that a vote of any sort could be possible at next year’s congress in Doha.
He said: “It’s not about a precise date but the right decision for football and it will take whatever time it takes. Everything is open, everything is flexible.”
However an invitation for the rest of the world to outvote Europe one day was laid out by Infantino’s summary of the headline conclusions of analyses by Nielsen and OpenEconomics.
Infantino 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.”
It is said that money talks. Infantino and Wenger will hope it also votes. One day. Later, if not sooner.