GENEVA (AP) – Europe’s top soccer league warned that FIFA’s biennial World Cup plans are still on the table and vowed on Friday to oppose a proposed overhaul of the international match schedule.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino on Wednesday promised to seek global consensus during a long period of consultations about the future of the World Cup. This was seen as acknowledging the strength of European opposition to doubling the frequency of the World Cup.
The European league grouping of 33 nations was later briefed by FIFA officials, including Arsene Wenger, who shaped the proposal, which includes shorter, but longer breaks in domestic seasons to play the biennial World Cup and national team games.
FIFA this week decided not to press for a December vote of its 211 member associations and instead to host online talks on December 20, calling it a “global summit”.
“We have also understood very clearly (Thursday) that this does not mean that the FIFA proposal is under consideration,” European league managing director Jaco Swart said on Friday.
“We have no choice but to vehemently reject FIFA’s proposals,” said Swart, a former official of the Netherlands’ top league.
The league cited the risk of “a serious shift in sporting and economic value from domestic to international competitions”.
It is estimated that playing a World Cup every two years would add about $3 billion to FIFA’s revenue from what is currently $6 billion in a four-year commercial cycle with a men’s edition.
FIFA’s proposal also calls for biennial continental tournaments such as the European Championship and South America’s Copa América to ensure major men’s events in June each year.
FIFA argues that this is necessary to attract and retain young fans and to promote the development of football on a global scale.
“FIFA’s proposals are harmful for domestic competitions, for clubs, for players and for all fans,” Swart said, echoing the views of European football body UEFA and fan groups.
“Football as a whole cannot accept those proposals,” he said after a two-day meeting of European league members in Milan.
Leagues prefer to keep the current system of stopping for one weekend four times each season to free up space for national-team games. FIFA wants shorter breaks for players with less long-distance travel, and one option calls for a longer break in October.
Infantino said this week FIFA is preparing a feasibility study that will include the economic impact of the biennial tournament ahead of its December meeting of its members.
In a hostile online meeting with UEFA members on Tuesday, some told Infantino that he could resign from FIFA if the biennial World Cup is approved. UEFA and South American football body CONMEBOL have also suggested boycotting future World Cups.
Europe and South America combine for 65 of the 211 FIFA votes and will likely need help from other regions where there is more support for Infantino and a chance to qualify for more World Cups.
FIFA has received support from several retired players, including World Cup winners, although the plan has been widely rejected by active players and national team coaches.
The International Olympic Committee has opposed FIFA, claiming that the biennial men’s World Cup would affect women’s football and other sports, and the physical and mental health of payers.
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