March 10 – A majority of players from the World Cup in Qatar do not want the tournament to be staged in winter again, according to the global players’ union Fifpro.
Releasing their Post-Tournament Review and Player Survey after scrutinising evidence from 64 players, the body said the World Cup should ideally never again be squeezed into a November-December window. Unless there was a complete overhaul of league schedules and “appropriate training and recovery time.”
France defender Raphaël Varane’s decision to end his international career last month at the age of 29 after a “suffocating” schedule was a warning sign, FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said in a media briefing.
Varane helped France reach the final, then announced on February 3 he was ending his international career.
“[Varane’s] decision should really, really make competition organisers nervous, because it’s ultimately those players who are on the field creating the game, they’re creating the product that is being sold by everybody … and they’re the players the fans come to see,” said Baer-Hoffmann. “I fear he is not going to be the last one if we continue like this.”
Players typically have at least two weeks after their club season to rest and prepare for a World Cup and Baer-Hoffman said a repeat of 2022 would be unacceptable.
“If you want to pursue a winter World Cup again, you need [the leagues] to completely change their schedule and provide appropriate training and recovery time pre- and post-tournament,” he said. “[It is] unlikely that they will agree to that.”
Post-tournament recovery time was cut from 37 days to eight in some countries to reduce disruption to Europe’s club calendar.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said after the finals in Qatar that the winter scheduling had led to more entertaining matches.
“Playing in November and December has had an impact,” Infantino said. He added that “we have seen it with the quality of the games” when compared with a summer World Cup played “at the end of an exhausting season”.
But Bear-Hoffman countered: “What we had this time was clearly not acceptable and shouldn’t be a viable option for anybody.” .
“What becomes very obvious from the report is that obviously the idea of scheduling a tournament like the World Cup mid-season would require much more significant changes to the calendar if that was ever to be done again. I think that is very clear.
“And obviously that is impossible without significantly altering the schedule of leagues and other club competitions.”
In their post-tournament survey, Fifpro said most players want at least 14 days preparation time and a recovery period of between 14 and 28 days.
This could be an issue at the 2026 World Cup, which is set to involve 48 teams and more games given that the proposed three-team groups is in the process of being re-evaluated. FIFA has indicated the additional days could come out of the preparation time.
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