PARIS (AFP, REUTERS) – The body representing professional football competitions in Europe, European Leagues, said on Thursday (Sept 9) that it was against Fifa’s proposal of staging a World Cup every two years.
And in the strongest pushback so far, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has warned of a potential European boycott if Fifa’s plans go ahead.
World football’s governing body is carrying out a review of the international match calendar, led by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who is proposing a major tournament every year.
Under the proposals, the World Cup would rotate with continental tournaments such as the European Championship and be played every second year instead of every fourth.
“We can decide not to play in it,” Ceferin, head of European football’s governing body, told The Times newspaper.
“As far as I know, the South Americans are on the same page. So good luck with a World Cup like that.
“I think it will never happen as it is so much against the basic principles of football.
“To play every summer a one-month tournament, for the players it’s a killer. If it’s every two years it clashes with the women’s World Cup, with the Olympic football tournament,” added the Slovenian.
“The value is precisely because it is every four years, you wait for it, it’s like the Olympic Games, it’s a huge event. I don’t see our federations supporting that.”
On Wednesday, the global governing body’s president Gianni Infantino said the extensive shake-up would cut out “too many meaningless matches”.
European Leagues, whose board of directors included members from La Liga, the English Premier League, the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A, met on Tuesday.
“On this occasion, the Leagues have firmly and unanimously opposed any proposals to organise the Fifa World Cup every two years,” the group said in a statement.
“The leagues will work together with the other stakeholders to prevent football governing bodies to take unilateral decisions that will harm domestic football which is the foundation of our industry and of utmost importance for clubs, players and fans across Europe and the world,” it added.
Earlier this week, Ceferin warned that hosting the World Cup every two rather than four years would “dilute” the tournament.
Fans from across the globe were also in favour of keeping the World Cup status quo.
“The overwhelming majority of fans oppose a biennial World Cup cycle, and if Fifa had bothered to engage with us on the subject, they would have known this to be the case,” 58 national fan organisations across the sport’s six confederations said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
“Why abandon almost a century’s worth of tradition on a whim and with no evidence that it will improve the global game?” it added.
Fifa’s congress voted by a large majority for a “feasibility study” to be carried out on the idea of a biennial World Cup but Ceferin stressed that the idea should be rejected.
“I hope they (Fifa) will come to their senses, because I don’t see the right approach to go everywhere except the confederations, not to speak to us.
“They didn’t come, they didn’t call, I didn’t get a letter or anything. I just read in the media.”
Ceferin said he also had no interest in Uefa’s European Championship being held every two years instead of every four years.
“It might be good for Uefa financially but the problem is we would be killing football like that. We are killing the players. I don’t see the clubs allowing the players to go and that would divide us completely,” he added.