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17 Oct 2021 6:43
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  •   Home > News > Law and Order

    Biennial World Cup plans slammed by European governing bodies on player welfare grounds

    German and Portuguese national football federations attack FIFA plans for a biennial World Cup, claiming players would suffer and women's tournaments would be marginalised.

    The German and Portuguese football federations have publicly slammed proposals to hold the men's World Cup every two years as world governing body FIFA pushes ahead with its planned reforms.

    FIFA has proposed the game's showpiece tournament be held every two years, halving the current four-year cycle.

    On Thursday, FIFA released its findings from an initial survey in which it claimed "the majority" of supporters wanted the World Cup to be held more often than every four years.

    The survey, conducted by IRIS and YouGov, showed that 45 per cent of the 15,008 respondents wanted the World Cup to remain every four years.

    That compares with 30 per cent of respondents saying they were in favour of the World Cup taking place every two years.

    UEFA voices serious concerns

    FIFA said "an expanded survey, involving over 100,000 people in more than one hundred countries, is currently underway".

    It said this survey would balance "elements such as population, geographic diversity, football history and potential" and would cover the frequency of both the men's and women's World Cup.

    A separate YouGov survey of 1,000 football supporters in the United Kingdom found that 21 per cent of respondents were in favour of the proposals, with 64 per cent somewhat or strongly opposed to the plan.

    Europe's UEFA and South America's CONMEBOL federations have both voiced serious concerns over the proposals.

    "UEFA and its national associations … have serious reservations and grave concerns surrounding reports of FIFA's plans," UEFA president Aleksandr Ceferin said earlier this month.

    Now, the German football association, the DFB, has warned the plans would mean players would be more at risk of injuries and that women's competitions would be overshadowed.

    Women's tournaments at risk of being overshadowed, player welfare highlighted

    The DFB said any plans to double the frequency of the men's World Cup could come at the cost of exposure for the women's World Cup.

    The women's World Cup is currently held in odd-numbered years and avoids clashes with major men's tournaments.

    Australia is set to host the next edition of the tournament in 2023 with New Zealand.

    The DFB said a two-year World Cup cycle could potentially force continental championships — the European Championships, Asian Cup or Copa América — to shift, clashing with the women's World Cup.

    "If either a men's World Cup or European Championship takes place every summer, the women's and junior tournaments would be marginalised in the shadow of the men's competitions," the DFB said.

    The DFB also said the increased "physical and mental strain" on players "would lead to a significantly increasing risk of injury".

    The Portuguese federation, the FPF, expressed similar concerns.

    They listed 10 reasons to reject the plans, including the impact on players' mental and physical health, the overlapping of men's and women's competitions, the impact on youth competitions and the "clear saturation" of the television and commercial rights market.

    However, FIFA said part of the proposals would be to reduce the number of international windows across the season to one or two, one-month-long blocks, reducing the burden of travel and allowing greater cohesion within international teams. 

    Who exactly is in favour of the plans?

    Discussion about the possibility of a biennial World Cup was triggered by a proposal from the Saudi Arabian Football Federation at May's FIFA congress.

    The instigation of a feasibility study was backed by 166 of FIFA's 211 national federations, with support predominantly coming from the African (CAF) and Asian (AFC) confederations.

    Earlier this month, at a two-day summit in Doha, FIFA's president Gianni Infantino and head of global development Arsene Wenger led discussions about the reforms with a group of former players.

    Those former players, including Socceroo Tim Cahill, all lent their support to the proposals.

    "Firstly it's all about transparency," Cahill said.

    "When you have 166 countries asking for the feasibility [study], it's really important that everyone can do their due diligence and add some context."

    Other players included Brazilian legend Ronaldo and European Championship winning goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who said that he thought "everyone was on board" with increasing the frequency to every two years.

    Doubling the frequency of the World Cup would also provide a huge funding boost to FIFA, whose main source of revenue is associated with the World Cup.  

    Any decision is set to be made at the December FIFA congress, with any changes to come into effect from 2028. 

    The next men's World Cup is set to take place in Qatar in 2022, the last tournament that will feature 32 teams.

    In 2018, Infantino claimed "the majority" of associations were in favour of the 2022 tournament being expanded to 48 teams, but relented after "a thorough and comprehensive consultation process".

    The 2026 tournament in Mexico, Canada and the United States will be the first to feature an expanded list of 48 teams.



    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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