Nordic nations say FIFA calendar plan would ‘cannibalise’ game and marginalise women

FIFA sign

October 18 – With opposition to the biennial World Cup snowballing, the Nordic football associations confirmed they won’t support Zurich’s calendar revolution, arguing the proposal would “cannibalise” existing competitions.

In a significant sign of support for continental governing body UEFA and another message to FIFA from stakeholders, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Faroe Islands were clear in their opposition to staging the World Cup every two years.

Their alignment with UEFA is not unexpected. Sweden’s Karl-Erik Nilsson is UEFA’s first vice president and Danish FA (DBU) president Jesper Møller is a UEFA executive committee member. UEFA supremo Aleksander Ceferin has previously said Europe is prepared to boycott FIFA’s plans.

The six countries lament that the world federation has not engaged with them, writing: “The Nordic football associations have not yet been involved in a dialogue on the World Cup proposal.” But their criticism goes further than mere formal consideration. They fear that the women’s game will become marginalised and that the proposal will “radically change the football ecosystem”.

“It (the FIFA proposal) can fundamentally make it impossible to continue with our current model of national tournaments and national team matches,” read the statement co-signed by the six member associations.

UEFA members have shown a united face in opposition to Zurich’s ideas, with the exception of France, whose president Noel Le Great supports a biennial World Cup. Le Graet faces dissent at home, with both the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) and Les Bleus’ head coach Didier Deschamps expressing their opposition.

FIFA have set up a ‘feasibility study’ into staging their World Cup every two years and ramped up PR heavily in recent months with a slate of legends pulling their weight behind the idea when Arsene Wenger, the organisation’s director of development, rolled out the concept in Doha, Qatar. He argued an overhaul of the international match calendar will benefit everyone in the game. FIFA also wants to use revenue generated by a biennial World Cup to power the game’s development around the world, though there has been no detail of how much extra revenue would be generated, from where, and how it would be distributed.

Africa supports Zurich as well as a number of smaller Asian member associations. In recent weeks, Zurich boss Infantino has travelled extensively to garner support for the plans. He is in South America, where he told Chileans they can stage the World Cup. Conmebol, however, is expected to vote in block against the proposal.

“The Nordic football associations will work with constructive amendments to make football prosper further in other regions, but this should not be at the cost of successful developments in Europe,” said the Nordic associations, who might be disappointed because FIFA’s overhaul of the match calendar seems contingent on the introduction of a biennial World Cup.

The International Olympic Committee has also come out to criticise World Cup expansion plans in what could become a major standoff between the world’s two most powerful sporting event organisers.

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