Conmebol says ‘no sporting justification’ for biennial World Cup

By Samindra Kunti

September 13 – South American confederation Conmebol has come out against plans for a biennial World Cup, joining UEFA as a critic and powerful opponent of FIFA’s dramatic proposal to overhaul the international match calendar. 

The South Americans don’t want to move away from the four-year World Cup cycle saying, in a statement: “There is no sporting justification for shortening the period between World Cups.

“Although at some point Conmebol supported the project in question, technical analysis showed that it is highly unviable.”

Three years ago, the confederation and its president Alejandro Dominguez backed and promoted plans to double the frequency of football’s biggest tournament. In fact, Dominguez proposed the idea in 2018, but in a dramatic volte-face Conmebol now believes that quality trumps quality.

“A World Cup every two years could distort the most important football competition on the planet, lowering its quality and undermining its exclusive character and its current demanding standards,” read the statement.

The continental ruling body argues that football’s complex and overloaded calendar can’t facilitate a World Cup every two years. “A World Cup every two years would represent an overload that is practically impossible to manage in the international competition calendar. In the current conditions, it is already complex to harmonize times, schedules, logistics, adequate preparation of equipment and commitments.”

Conmebol’s opposition crystallises the divide in the global game over the highly controversial plans from Zurich with the South Americans and UEFA on one side and FIFA and the rest of the world on the other side. European boss Aleksander Ceferin has said that his confederation will boycott a biennial tournament if necessary.

Last year, ties between Europe and South America were strengthened when the two ruling bodies signed a memorandum of understanding, but their alliance may not be enough to prevent a new match calendar after the 2024. At the weekend, Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp also voiced his concern about the plans, claiming that “in the end, it’s all about money, that’s how it is.”

That’s not how FIFA have portrayed their pursuit of the biennial revolution. Last week, the organisation’s director of development and former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger jetted to Doha alongside 80 legends of the game and explained the proposal as a way to organise the match calendar efficiently, emphasizing quality over quantity, less travel for players, and “a mission to try and minimise the differences between the confederations.”

The legends in tow all nodded in approval. Wenger also implied that FIFA enjoys the backing of the fans, even if FIFA’s own fan survey has not been completed yet. The world federation’s feasibility study is also ongoing. Last spring, a vast majority of FIFA’s membership requested such a study at Congress following a motion by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF).

In the meantime, the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has endorsed the biennial plans and four member associations of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have united to support the idea.

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