Football

Biennial World Cup must be ‘beneficial to all’: Fifa chief Infantino

Fifa chief Infantino aims to seek consensus over controversial plans

Fifa president Gianni Infantino has signalled that he is open to dropping its controversial plans for a biennial World Cup, saying that he wants to seek a consensus over the plans after facing fierce criticism.

Speaking after a Fifa Council meeting in Zurich on Wednesday, he said the ruling council has agreed to hold a global summit on Dec 20 to discuss the proposals for a World Cup every two years from 2028, rather than every four years.

However, Infantino did not commit to hold a binding vote on the plans - after Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin warned against it, saying there would be "terrible consequences for football in general" if he pushed ahead.

"We have received some legitimate criticism; we have received a lot of enthusiastic comments as well," Infantino said.

"I do believe we can reach a consensus because what I've said from the beginning is that we're going to change things only if we are completely convinced that it will be beneficial for everybody."

Whether a consensus is even possible given the vehement positions of various sections of the game remains open to debate - but the Fifa president seemed nonetheless upbeat.

"I am confident that on December 20, we... can present a common solution. How this will look like? For me, everything is open," he said.

Earlier, he had insisted that a biennial World Cup will help to spread the funds football generates to more clubs, as there are competitions that earn much more money than the World Cup, but only a handful of clubs benefit from it.

His plans have been heavily criticised by Uefa, South American football's governing body Conmebol and the International Olympic Committee.

On Tuesday, Infantino took part in a conference call with Uefa's 55 national federations and the proposals received widespread criticism and rejection.

While Fifa is expected to received the findings of a feasibility study and economic analysis of the extra World Cup's financial impact before December's summit, a report commissioned by Uefa reveals that it would be detrimental for Europe.

The report estimates a shortfall of between 2.5 and 3 billion euros (S$3.9b to S$4.7b) over four years for European federations if the World Cup takes place every two years, AFP has learned.

The report does not take into account the possible additional shortfall for each of the national championships, say French newspapers Le Monde and L'Equipe, who revealed the contents of the document.

Not surprisingly, Ceferin has said Uefa would boycott an additional World Cup and his opposition to the plan has been echoed by European clubs and leagues.

While Infantino insisted that the reforms will also streamline football's international calendar, not everyone is convinced.

Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer said in yesterday's edition of German magazine Kicker: "Players, coaches, everyone who bears responsibility in the clubs groan and moan about too many games - and now the World Cup rhythm is to be increased again? That simply doesn't make sense."

Real Madrid's Croatian midfielder Luka Modric said he does not see the point of a biennial World Cup.

"I wouldn't like to see a World Cup every two years. But they are not asking us. They are trying to do things without asking the players or the coaches what they think about it."

Fifa had said on Monday that it will hold talks with national coaches this week over their plans, but there was no mention about consulting players. - AFP, REUTERS

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