World football opposes FIFA’s idea of biennial World Cups

FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino speaks during the FIFA Closing Press Conference at Stade de Lyon on July 05, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

FIFA is working on plans for establishing biennial World Cups. Yet, the governing body’s recent proposal to shorten the time between tournaments has fundamentally shaken the football world.

Both women’s and men’s football associations indicated that the matter is not something to be taken light-hearted.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino urged all sides to “behave” reasonably in the debate over the possible biennial World Cups.

Nothing is certain as of yet. However, whether or not FIFA’s proposal goes forward will most likely come to surface by spring 2022.

Infantino’s vision and the ambiguous reasons behind it

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The FIFA president is the key advocate of the whole biennial World Cup idea.

Infantino recently announced that FIFA is going to host a remote “global summit” on December 20th. After making his idea public last Tuesday, it instantly raised lots of eyebrows and received generalized outrage.

“We have faced some legitimate criticism. […] I’m just calling everyone to be calm and rational about it,” the FIFA president said during the news conference.

The 51-year-old president’s explanation of such a radical change in received an underwhelming response.

Representatives of UEFA and CONMEBOL stated their opposition of such a modification to the Copa Mundial schedule. But Infantino clarified his position.

“It’s not my proposal or my decision. I have to facilitate the dialogue and bring people together,” the Swiss-Italian FIFA president said.

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To the disappointment of women’s football fans, Infantino didn’t clarify if the vote among FIFA members associations would be taken separately for women’s and men’s World Cups. As a result, the lack of explanation itself further shadowed the matter instead of enlightening it.

Infantino’s ultimate vision is to give everyone a chance to be part of the World Cup. In order for it to stay competitive, however, it is vital to find a balance. This means looking at all competitive variables, including giving lower-ranked nations a shot, increasing the prize money and widening international windows.

But nobody can be sure if a biennial World Cup is the right direction at the moment.

The institution of the ‘TAG’ team

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Last Monday, Jill Ellis, leader of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and a two-time World Cup winner as head coach of the USWNT, briefly discussed the matter publicly.

“I can’t say this is a foregone conclusion,” Ellis said, adding that “it’s going to go to a vote ultimately.”

The former USWNT coach left it open for discussions in the near future, but as she stated: “There are so many positives that come from a World Cup.”

But that is really up for debate.

Recently, Alex Morgan was added to the FIFA advisory board. Five more currently active players are part of the 31-member board. Such members include Lindsey Horan, Ali Riley, Deyna Castellanos, Wendie Renard, and Asisat Oshoala.

On one hand, it’s overwhelming to see FIFA valuing players’ opinions. But on the other hand, it feels like the governing body only cares when these opinions are in their favour.

What are the pros to more World Cups?

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As far as the assets of fulfilling such a challenging idea, yes, it will bring a lot more money in the shape of revenue to the sport. Women’s football is in need of that money in order to look at the future optimistically.

As Morgan said to reporters: “It can really benefit club leagues around the world […] in terms of visibility, gaining more coverage for women’s football.”

World Cups have always been the centre of women’s football. The rise of visibility and awareness around it always comes along with it, as the history of the competition has proven.

New players come into the spotlight. Although leagues have already started in some countries, players return with in-form status, bringing along viewership they earned through their World Cup appearances.

What about the cons?

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Despite money and status on the side of biennial World Cups, several disadvantages come with such a change.

As Morgan explained: “It’s really difficult to grasp the concept of changing from every four years to two because that’s what we are used to.”

The outcomes of such a tremendous alteration of the Women’s World Cup won’t come without costs. Right now, international windows coincide with domestic league matches and, ultimately, marquee players tend to miss league games in favour of playing for their national teams.

“It is a very important element how the qualification will be structured because that’s where all FIFA members participate,” Infantino said.

Domestic European leagues have already shown their dissatisfaction, though. The Nordic Football Associations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Finland have already threatened to leave FIFA if the biennial World Cup is put forward.

Infantino also stated that “the qualification systems will be part of the discussions with the confederations and associations.”

The powerful FIFA man uses only 25% of member associations that eventually participate in the final stage of the World Cup as an alibi for his intentions.

The harsh truth is that if only one in four national teams really deserves to participate in the best football tournament in the world. That’s not a World Cup occurrence problem–but something the rest of the 75% of associations have to solve.

Alteration would harm the Olympic Games

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Although men’s football is not the main attraction of the Olympics, women’s football really stands out among fans’ preferences.

Unlike the men’s game, the women’s tournament is not age-restricted and the biggest household names are available to make their Olympic dreams come true.

Canada’s triumph should be considered a major moment since the Olympic Games usually take place one year after the Women’s World Cup. Some could even dub the Canadian national team as the second world champions.

Holding the World Cup every two years is definitely going to hurt the Olympics Games, which hold a special place in every women’s football fans’ hearts.

If FIFA is going to do something about it, they should push for more teams to join in instead of just 12 as it is until now.

What’s the verdict?

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We have seen big clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester City threatening the UEFA in order to form their own league and push their own economical agenda. They didn’t make it and for the sake of football, let’s hope it won’t ever happen.

But now this is a whole different thing. FIFA is trying to squeeze out whatever it can from international football. Relying on more World Cups, changing the current qualification system (for the better or worse) in order to degrade the sport and pocket more money is not the way to move forward. Neither for women’s football nor for men’s.

Jill Ellis and the TAG might be in favour of this radical idea, and it might not be a foregone conclusion as Ellis said. It is certain that it will ultimately go to a vote, but we should not rest assure that they know exactly what they are doing.

Everybody in the business must have their opinion heard, including fans and a vast number of currently active players.

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