By Andrew Warshaw
November 29 – Bruised by the generally lukewarm response to his case for the World Cup to be held every two years, Gianni Infantino now claims opponents of the idea are scared of change.
Only African football, the continent most aligned to Infantino, has categorically endorsed the idea so Infantino chose the safety of the African Football Confederation’s extraordinary Congress in Cairo last week to launch his most outspoken denunciation to date of those who simply wish to maintain the status quo.
Opposition has been so widespread that the chances of a biennial World Cup actually happening now appear remote.
But the day before addressing the Asian Football Confederation (which so far has been resistant to a biennial World Cup), Infantino, knowing he was among compliant friends, strategically focussed on the same subject in a stronger speech to CAF’s 54 members.
“The countries that are against a biennial World Cup are already at the top,” said Infantino as the congress unanimously voted to support his plan.
“That happens in every sector, if there are plans for reforms or changes. Those at the top prefer not to change anything, because they are already at the top. They’re afraid their leadership position is at risk if something changes.”
Although they weren’t identified by name, it was pretty obvious Infantino was referring to UEFA and Conmebol who have both come out against changing the current four-year cycle.
FIFA is holding a so-called global summit on December 20 to further canvass opinion on the biennial proposal, brainchild of FIFA’s director of football development Arsene Wenger.
The World Cup has been played every four years, apart from cancellations during World War II, ever since the inaugural edition in 1930. But Infantino believes more frequent World Cups will boost participation – with improved chances of qualification. Africa will only have five representatives next year in Qatar, with UEFA providing 13 of the 32 participants.
An extra men’s World Cup in a four-year cycle would reportedly bring in an additional $3 billion to FIFA’s coffers, the knock-on effect being increased funding to FIFA’s 211 member federations and six continental bodies. However, a separate study suggests that while FIFA might gain the rest of football would lose upwards of $8 billion as media power and sponsorship focuses on the annual main events.
“The door must remain open to new countries, there must be hope and opportunity,” Infantino declared. “We must give poorer countries like in Africa more opportunities to shine on the world stage. It is our responsibility to keep the dream open.”
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