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FIFA softens biennial World Cup stance amid European pushback

FIFA President Gianni Infantino confirmed a Dec. 20 FIFA summit will see a formal proposal for the World Cup's future put forwardGETTY IMAGES

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said that FIFA "will only push ahead with changes to the international football calendar, and plans for a biennial World Cup, 'if we are completely convinced it is beneficial for everybody,'" according to Rob Dorsett of SKY SPORTS. The comments come after UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has "threatened 'severe consequences' if FIFA follows through with its plans." Infantino confirmed a special virtual FIFA summit "will be held on December 20, open to all 211 member associations, where a formal proposal will be put forward for the future of the men's and women's game." No date "has been set for a final vote on the matter," though FIFA "has confirmed it will hold its next scheduled congress meeting in Doha on March 31 next year." There has been "widespread condemnation of FIFA's proposals." Ceferin yesterday hinted that "any European nations may look to withdraw from FIFA's governance and go [at] it alone, unless they change their plans for a World Cup every two years -- a move which would also clearly threaten the staging of the UEFA's flagship European Championships." Infantino also said that he "sees more World Cups in the future being staged across multiple countries -- to both reduce the carbon footprint of the competition" (SKY SPORTS, 10/21).

OPINIONS DIFFER: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Robinson & Bachman noted while Infantino and FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsene Wenger "boast broad support from the smaller nations that make up the FIFA membership," many of the most powerful voices in the game, including major leagues and World Cup-winning countries, "are forcefully against it." EPL CEO Richard Masters said, “The proposal made by FIFA is obviously harmful for domestic football from top level to grass roots and therefore cannot be supported." The "most vocal opponent since the start of the process has been UEFA," which has argued that the new calendar "would crunch domestic league seasons; render the quadrennial European Championship irrelevant; harm women’s football by halting the progress of professional leagues; and make excessive physical demands of the top players." European officials also pointed out that a "more frequent World Cup wouldn't necessarily mean a more diverse World Cup" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/21).

POWER STRUGGLE: YAHOO SPORTS' Henry Bushnell writes this fight is "not good vs. evil," it is "a battle for control." It is a "global organization that represents the interests of global soccer vs. a European organization that represents the interests of European soccer." The Europeans are winning, and they are "tightening their grip on power." The biennial World Cup is FIFA's "desperate attempt to wrest some back." Each wants to organize games and tournaments between the world's most popular soccer players. They want to "sell sponsorships and broadcast rights to those games, and distribute profits among their members, who use the handouts to buy or develop more popular soccer players, whom FIFA or UEFA will eventually monetize too." For a while now, UEFA has "done this more often and more profitably than FIFA has" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/20).

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