ZURICH: FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday he wanted to seek consensus over plans for a biennial World Cup and changes to the international match calendar after facing fierce criticism from European federations.
FIFA’s ruling council agreed to hold a global summit on Dec 20 to discuss the proposals for a World Cup to be held every two years rather than every four years.
However, Infantino did not commit to hold a binding vote on the plans — after UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin warned against it, saying there would be “terrible consequences for football in general” if he pushed ahead.
FIFA will now wait for the results of a feasibility study and also an economic analysis of the financial impact of the extra World Cup, which are expected to be delivered before the summit.
A meeting between ‘technical groups’ of FIFA and UEFA is also scheduled for next week.
Ceferin has said UEFA would boycott an additional World Cup and his opposition to the plan has been echoed by European clubs and leagues.
Infantino noted the debate had been “heated” but said that it was a sign of change within FIFA that such a wide-ranging consultation was being held.
The president of world football’s governing body told a press conference that there were sharply different opinions on the idea stemming from different global regions. Infantino said he thought it was possible to reach a common position.
He stressed that so far, FIFA had not asked countries whether or not they agreed with the proposals but had simply presented them to trigger discussion.
“I do believe we can reach a consensus because what I’ve said from the beginning is that we’re going to change things only if we are completely convinced that it will be beneficial for everybody,” said Infantino. “By hosting a global summit later this year, we will now have the opportunity to present one plan and to provide feedback to all our FIFA member associations.”
There was, however, no strong attempt to sell the idea of a biennial World Cup from Infantino, who instead emphasised that his role was to listen to all viewpoints.
“We have to see how we can approach the different opinions of different parties,” Infantino added. “We need to look at sporting and economic merits, then we can have a reasoned discussion about World Cups and perhaps other competitions. I do not know what the outcome will be.”
He also suggested the days of one country hosting a World Cup on its own were numbered.
FIFA will hold its next full congress in Doha, Qatar on March 31, ahead of the
draw for the finals of the 2022 World Cup in the Gulf country.
Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2021