European football’s governing body UEFA has urged FIFA to stop pushing its plan for a two-year World Cup and instead to engage in “genuine consultation” about reform of the international match calendar.
FIFA, the governing body of world football, is conducting a feasibility study into holding the tournament on a biennial basis, a change from the current four-yearly cycle, but has made no secret of its desire to switch to such a format.
Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager who is now FIFA’s head of Global Football Development, said this month he was “100 percent convinced” of the switch.
“UEFA is disappointed with the methodology adopted, which has so far led to radical reform projects being communicated and openly promoted before having been given, together with other stakeholders, the chance to participate in any consultation meeting,” UEFA said in a statement on Wednesday.
It added there were numerous concerns about the effects of such a switch, including the “dilution” of the World Cup’s value, risks of players being over-worked and women’s football suffering from annual men’s tournaments.
“These are just some of the serious concerns that the FIFA proposal provokes at first glance and they cannot be dispelled simply with unsubstantiated promotional slogans on the supposed benefits of a thicker calendar for final tournaments,” the statement added.
UEFA said it had asked, on September 14, for a meeting with FIFA and the 55 European member associations but has yet to get a reply.
Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA president, warned this month of a potential European boycott of the World Cup if FIFA’s plans went ahead.
“We can decide not to play in it,” Ceferin told The Times newspaper.
“As far as I know, the South Americans are on the same page. So good luck with a World Cup like that. I think it will never happen as it is so much against the basic principles of football.”
Last week, FIFA published an online poll that claimed a majority of football fans support the idea of a “more frequent” World Cup – and of those respondents, a majority preferred a biennial competition.
FIFA later revealed a more detailed summary of the results which showed that while a majority of those surveyed favoured a more frequent tournament, the largest amount of support among all age groups was to maintain the status quo of holding the event every four years.
The only continental confederation whose fans did not place every four years as the most popular answer was in Africa where there was a tie on 35 percent for a time gap of four years and two years.
Numerous national supporters groups have opposed the proposal worldwide, while global players’ union FIFPro has denounced “the absence of a real dialogue” on the subject, pointing out the “natural physiological limits” of footballers.
“Without the agreement of the players, who bring all competitions to life on the pitch, no such reforms will have the required legitimacy,” said Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, FIFPro general secretary.