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Opinion

What would a biennial World Cup mean for football?

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Roar Rookie
6th April, 2022
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With international football returning to the headlines, I have been reminded of a certain topic which has received less media coverage recently: the prospect of a biennial World Cup.

It has not left FIFA’s mind, however, as in his latest press conference, FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, stated that the idea was still “a possibility.”

The concept was proposed by the Saudi Arabian Football Association in May 2021, receiving backing by former Arsenal and Monaco manager Arsene Wenger, who is currently FIFA’s ‘chief of global football development’. His name and face are still the ones associated with the idea.

The outline of Wenger’s plan is as follows: Confederation tournaments in odd years.

Either one (October) or two (October and March) mid-season international breaks, for a month in total, when qualifying for major tournaments will take place. Groups of four countries are envisaged, with a play-off, for a maximum of seven matches.

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Guaranteed rest periods for players once tournaments are over.

As soon as his concept was announced, it faced opposition. Organisations such as the Premier League, UEFA and CONMEBOL all announced their displeasure. As well as this, La Liga chief Javier Tebas said the proposed calendar changes, “would disrupt the domestic leagues to the extent that interest would be lost and continuity jeopardised”.

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The belief from those who oppose it is it’s only a way of making FIFA richer and nothing else. There is some truth to this – according to FIFA, hosting a World CUp every two years would generate them an extra £3.3 billion over four years.

Despite all this, the concept does have some support. CAF (Confederation of African Football) have given their backing and Wenger certainly believes in it, saying, he is “100 per cent convinced it is the right move and it will give every talent a chance”.

He thinks the extra money it generates can be invested globally and prevent his belief that players don’t have an equal chance to fulfil their potential because of where they were born. Australian Tim Cahill said: “I spoke to Ali Al-Habsi, who spent 19 years trying to qualify for a World Cup (with Oman) and never made it – 133 countries never have.”

I am opposed to a biennial World Cup. There have been no promises by FIFA that the profit from it will help grow the game and help football-loving people in poorer countries. Also, I believe it would detract from the pull and the beauty of the World Cup.

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Many think that the amount of countries who will support Wenger’s idea (those that have not qualified for a World Cup) will be enough to make the concept a reality.

Maybe it could be a positive, if everthing that Wenger says is true (and good luck with that). You feel sympathy for minnows like Al-Habsi’s Oman but is that not the way in other sports? There is no yearly cricket World Cup so Tuvalu can realise their dreams of reaching the finals and the six countries that make up rugby’s Six Nations aren’t considering expanding to seven so Panama can taste some success.

I’m not saying minnows must be minnows forever but that they should become better fairly, through a well-run football association, like Canada have done in reaching their first World Cup since 1986. I fear that with a biennial World Cup, it will be the bigger nations that profit and not the smaller ones.

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