FIFA's plan to hold a biennial World Cup as well as overhaul the entire international fixtures is set to be brought at the next stage. They are likely to face 'the battle' with several parties who are against such idea.
The world governing body in football through its head of global development, Arsene Wenger, has reportedly prepared to discuss this controversial proposal in altering the international football calender in its first online summit on September 30. The entire football confederations plus the European Club Association, World Leagues Forum and world players' union FIFPRO are invited to hold talks regarding such drastic change.
The change in this supposedly new scheme consists of holding the men's world cup in the even years and staging the continental tournaments including EURO, Copa America, CONCACAF Gold Cup, AFC Asian Cup and African Cup of Nations in the odd years alongside with women's world cup. In addition, the proposal also mentions about the expected schedule of one-month international fixtures in March and October for at most seven matches per team, including the tournaments playoffs.
According to FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, the reason beyond this overhaul is to reduce the unimportant international games.
"I think that the status quo of the international match calendar shows us that we have reached some limits. It's not good for the health of the players, it's not good for the competitions. There are too many meaningless matches. We need to look into what more can be done. We have to have a system which is simple and is clear, which everyone understands", he stated.
Unfortunately, FIFA seems to either dismiss or forget the fact that there are qualifying rounds before the world cup and continental tournaments, which have been taking slots of the current calendar. In some regions, the qualifiers are even set in stages. Moreover, players nowadays have already suffered fatigue after every international fixtures, which leads to bigger risk of injuries. Not to mention the U-21 and women competitions will be 'sacrified' for the sake of men's world cup. No wonder that there have been two opposing sides to this proposal. UEFA, Conmebol, FIFPRO and World Leagues Forum tend to be against it while CAF, AFC and CONCACAF are either supporting or open-minded to it.
It is interesting to find out more why the ones against the idea are the high profile confederations which the world cup winners are all from while the ones on the same page with FIFA are the less dominant sides in the world cup history. It has not been confirmed whether the nature of this concept emergence comes to shake the domination of UEFA and Conmebol in the tournament, simply due to the financial issue which would certainly be an advantage for the world's football governing body's revenues to share with the federations or purely because of the pandemic which has put some difficulties for the international players to regroup in the national team with the several breaks in a year.
The idea itself was initiated by Saudi Arabia Football Federation in FIFA Congress last May and soon backed without any discussion in the bigger football forums. FIFA claimed that this change had been supported by 166 out of 211 of its members and are set to begin in the summer 2028 onwards, should it be approved and made official. According to Sky Sports, their latest survey to more than 20,000 football fans from all six confederations in July 2021 resulted 55 percent of them in favor of the idea. Yet, in each of the age group, the ones who opt for the status quo are still higher, ranging from 37 to 58 percent. This difference understanding could potentially lead to a fierce debate later. UEFA's looming boycott threat as stated by its president Alexander Ceferin might push Wenger to consider the alternative scenario.
There can be several possible options for them. One most possible plan would be promoting more junior tournaments for global market by staging FIFA World Cup U-21 or joining forces with IOC for better football in the Olympic Games so that it would be like mini World Cup U-23 for both men and women, in the expected slot even year for biennial world cup. The odd years would still be given for Women's World Cup and EURO, Copa America plus other continental competitions in every other year instead of in the same year. Another scenario would be holding FIFA Club World Cup with sixteen teams as planned before the pandemic for the even year of the two-year world cup plan. If everyone is on the same page, starting from 2027, the world should see international tournaments every summer equally for all levels, the 2027 is for FIFA Women's World Cup, the 2028 is for FIFA World Cup U-21 and/or Football in the Olympic Games (the so-called World Cup U-23) or FIFA Club World Cup, the 2029 is for EURO, Copa America etc and finally the men's World Cup in 2030. That way, FIFA can still generate extra revenue and the other competitions beside men's world cup are not marginalised.