FIFA sets talks on biennial World Cup

ZURICH (AP) — FIFA will finally start speaking to football clubs, leagues and players’ unions this month in the latest steps announced yesterday in its push to organise a men’s World Cup every two years.

All 211 member federations have also been invited to online talks on September 30 as part of consulting on the future of national team football, including a biennial men’s World Cup.

FIFA first sought approval this month from retired players, including World Cup winners who went to Qatar for a two-day conference, and commissioned surveys of fans in selected countries.

That process was criticised as flawed by FIFPRO, the global union for active players, which is now set to get a meeting with FIFA.

A “new phase of consultation” will start with organisations representing players, clubs, leagues and the six continental governing bodies, FIFA said yesterday in a statement.

Argentina players celebrate at the end a qualifying football match against Bolivia for the FIFA World Cup Qatar in Buenos Aires. PHOTO: AP

European football body UEFA has warned it could boycott if the World Cup moves from its historic four-year cycle, and South American counterpart CONMEBOL is also opposed. Their members dominate World Cups on the field but combine for fewer than one-third of the 211 federations who vote.

FIFA argues biennial World Cups will give more players and teams the chance to compete in meaningful games, improve talent globally and raise more money to fuel development programmes.

Opposition has focussed on diluting the World Cup’s appeal, distorting the balance between domestic and international football and overloading players in a crowded schedule. The prestige of UEFA’s European Championship and CONMEBOL’s Copa America also risk being hit by playing more World Cups.

The World Cup debate has overshadowed an ongoing review of the FIFA-managed International Match Calendars which mandate when clubs must release players to national teams.

The men’s calendar expires in 2024 and there is broad agreement the current system is outdated. It requires players to travel for matches in separate windows at least four times during each domestic season.

FIFA has proposed streamlining the calendar with smaller tournament qualifying groups, potentially playing all matches in a single block in October.