The proposal that FIFA is studying to hold the World Cup every 2 years split the waters in the football ocean. There are many people in favor and many others against, but there is little analysis on the proposal. To help you form your own opinion, ESPN.com It answers the main unknowns about this calendar modification that could change football, as we know it, forever.
How did the project to play the World Cup every 2 years come about?
In May 2021, during the last FIFA congress, Yasser Al-Misehal, president of the Federation of Saudi Arabia, presented a petition to study the possibility of organizing the World Cups, male and female, every 2 years instead of every 4, as has been done since 1930. Gianni Infantino, head of FIFA, considered the Saudi proposal “eloquent and detailed.” Most federations supported the initiative. With 166 votes in favor and only 22 against, the world of football approved to discuss its most sacred calendar.
What other changes does this proposal include?
Arsène Wenger, current head of FIFA’s department for global football development, wants to take advantage of this project to thoroughly reformulate the international calendar. The former Arsenal manager, who has already been working on regulatory changes to make the game more attractive, proposes that continental tournaments, such as the America’s Cup or the Euro, are also biannual in odd-numbered years. Imagine a month (in October) or two (in October and March) of stopping at club competitions to perform international classifications. Wants short qualifiers, with groups of 4 teams, direct elimination and a maximum of 7 games. He maintains that this would guarantee rest periods for footballers.
Why does FIFA want to make these changes?
The search for greater economic resources, together with a broader and more distributed participation of national teams are the main reasons. “It would be necessary to think about whether the current four-year cycle continues to be the ideal base on which to manage football, both from a competitive and commercial perspective, as well as in terms of the general development of football,” he said Al-Misehal when pushing the proposal. From FIFA they coincide. They believe that having more quality matches will help democratize the sport. It will bring more nations to the World Cup and generate more money to develop young footballers around the globe, fighting the concentration of resources and talents.
How do you imagine in FIFA that the World Cups of the future will be?
In Infantino’s mind, the calendar change is a complementary proposal to the already approved extension to 48 teams that will come into effect from the 2026 World Cup to be played in Canada, the United States and Mexico. The World Cups of the future will have more participating teams (48 teams), more relevant matches (shorter qualifiers and smaller groups) and will be played more often (every 2 years).
What are the arguments in favor of the project?
They affirm that it will increase the chances that countries with little or no World Cup experience will be able to measure themselves against the best. Wenger recalls that Over the 4-year cycle, 133 out of 211 FIFA federations never qualified for the World Cup. And only 58 did it more than once. China, the most populous territory on the planet, only played in 2002 and failed to score a goal. India, the 2nd country with the most inhabitants, is still waiting for its chance to attend a World Cup. They add that it will help unzip a heavily loaded calendar that overexposes its protagonists, the footballers. Wenger he claims to be “100% convinced” that this is the right way to go. “If I were in a club I would sign it with both hands”, says the French coach.
Before and after everything, the great reason is economic. Most of FIFA’s revenue comes from television, advertising and the ticket sales generated by the Men’s World Cup. With Russia 2018, FIFA brought in 4.6 billion dollars. That event determines the financial cycle of the Swiss-based organization, marked by 3 years of losses that are only recovered every 4 years. The account they do in Zurich is simple: more worldwide, more income.
What are the arguments against the project?
Opponents argue that the calculation is not so straightforward and that repetition would detract from the appeal and value of the World Cup. Beyond the thousands of fans who were outraged, the strongest voice against this project was that of the powerful UEFA, which threatened not to participate. “Good luck with a World Cup like this,” said its president, Aleksander Ceferin.. While FIFA seeks to increase its revenue, UEFA, who have high and stable income from club competitions such as the Champions League, do not look favorably on doubling the national team tournaments even if that also implies biennial Euros.
This calendar also does not attract leagues. Javier Tebas, the owner of the Spanish LaLiga, considered the project as “a threat against the tradition of world football”. Make the most frequent national team tournaments, and force them to compete with sporting events such as the Olympic Games, could disinterest fans and TV networks. Another negative effect, they add, is that it would curb the presence of women in football. With this format, his World Cup would be overshadowed by the male one, limiting his exposure in the media and the interest of fans.
When would the approval or rejection of the project be resolved?
The proposal is under study within FIFA and Wenger is confident that the feasibility consultation process will be completed by the end of 2021. In that case, its approval or rejection will be left to the next FIFA Congress, which would be in May 2022. It will be, once again, the representatives of the 211 federations who determine the future of football.