By Andrew Warshaw
September 23 – UEFA’s opposition to the idea of a biennial World Cup has moved into overdrive with a hard-hitting demand to FIFA to stop publicising the controversial idea before engaging in “genuine consultation”.
There is no love lost between the rival organisations and as the dispute intensifies, UEFA has warned, following a meeting of its executive committee, of significant dangers for the future of football.
FIFA is conducting a feasibility study into scrapping almost a century of tradition and has the support of the African continent. It also claims, somewhat dubiously, that the majority of fans globally back the change.
Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager who is now FIFA’s head of Global Football Development and is driving the proposal, said this month he was “100% convinced” of the switch.
But UEFA says FIFA is guilty of “promotional slogans” that will impact heavily on the game at large.
“UEFA is disappointed with the methodology adopted, which has so far led to radical reform projects being communicated and openly promoted before having been given, together with other stakeholders, the chance to participate in any consultation meeting,” UEFA said in a statement.
“There are real dangers associated with this plan. The dilution of the value of the No. 1 world football event, whose quadrennial occurrence gives it a mystique that generations of fans have grown up with; the erosion of sporting opportunities for the weaker national teams by replacing regular matches with final tournaments; the risk to sustainability for players, forced to engage in summer high intensity competitions every year instead of longer recuperation breaks in alternate years.”
UEFA also highlighted “the impact on the global sports system and respect that football, as the most followed sport worldwide, must show to consolidated spaces of exposure and exploitation used by other sports.”
“These are just some of the serious concerns that the FIFA proposal provokes at first glance and they cannot be dispelled simply with unsubstantiated promotional slogans on the supposed benefits of a thicker calendar for final tournaments.”
“The respect for a consultation process with the stakeholders – which should be unbiased – would suggest abstaining from promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts that nobody has been given the possibility to see in detail and which have wide-ranging, often unexpected, effects.”
UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin is reported to have asked for a personal hearing with his Fifa counterpart Gianni Infantino.
In its statement, UEFA said it had requested, on September 14, a summit with FIFA involving all of Europe’s 55 member associations but has yet to get a reply.
FIFA has been doing its best to gather support for Wenger’s idea, not least among past playing legends, but earlier this month Ceferin warned of a potential European boycott of the World Cup if the biennial plan goes ahead.
“We can decide not to play in it,” Ceferin told The Times newspaper. “As far as I know, the South Americans are on the same page. So good luck with a World Cup like that. I think it will never happen as it is so much against the basic principles of football.”
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