ECA turns heat up on FIFA for ‘railroading’ biennial World Cup plans

By Andrew Warshaw

September 24 – Europe’s leading clubs have issued a savage indictment of FIFA’s biennial World Cup proposals, accusing world football’s governing body of “railroading” everyone else to suit their own interests.

Twenty-four hours after UEFA claimed FIFA had snubbed its request for a face-to-face meeting, the European Club Association (ECA) said it had “grave concerns” about potentially “destructive” changes to the international calendar and, like UEFA, urged FIFA to stop its public relations campaign until it had sat down with the relevant stakeholders.

The idea of staging the World Cup every two years has gathered pace since Saudi Arabia’s national federation called for the concept to be explored back in May at the FIFA Congress. Since then it has been taken up by Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s head of football global development who is spearheading the campaign.

Of FIFA’s largest confederations, only Africa has so far categorically backed the idea and the ECA, in supporting UEFA’s opposition, denounces FIFA for pressing ahead “in direct and unilateral breach of certain legal obligations.”

“Football clubs have always been a fundamental and respected voice in shaping the future of the IMC (international match calendar),” the ECA said in a statement.

“The ECA has been clear in its position that changes are needed to the IMC. A modernised and simpler IMC needs to be founded on fewer release windows; better player protection and health; and a balanced approach to club and international football. To that end, ECA has made clear – publicly, privately and repeatedly – its availability to engage with FIFA to agree what those changes should be.

“ECA has therefore followed with grave concern and alarm FIFA’s launch of active PR campaigns and much pretence, apparently seeking to railroad through reforms to the IMC, particularly the introduction of a biennial World Cup.

“Aside from the notable lack of genuine (or indeed any) consultation, and as many stakeholders have pointed out in recent days, FIFA’s proposals would lead to a direct and destructive impact on the club game, both domestically and internationally.

“In addition, the proposals would put players’ health and wellbeing at risk. They would dilute the value and meaning of club and country competitions. They would diminish and conflict with women’s and youth football – being under-represented areas of the game where ECA and others are committing significant time, talent and resources – while also subordinating other sporting tournaments and interests at all levels worldwide.”

“In short, the reform of the IMC must be founded on jointly-agreed outcomes, balanced in the interests of all, following honest and detailed consultation – not simply railroaded in the singular interests of FIFA on the back of a series of PR campaigns.”

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