EU opposes biennial World Cup – POLITICO
The European Commission on Thursday said it was concerned about FIFA’s plan to make the football World Cup a biennial event.
“I fully share the doubts of the national European football federations on the possibility of a biennial football World Cup,” said Margaritis Schinas, European Commission vice president for promoting our European way of life. “Europe is the world’s epicenter of football, and we have a duty to preserve a model that respects the interest of the fans, the wellbeing of the players and the overall logic of the global sports calendar, not just commercial interests.”
The Commission’s intervention comes as FIFA — world football’s governing body — undergoes a feasibility study to assess the impact of moving the World Cup to a two-year schedule, instead of taking place every four years.
The FIFA plan, initially proposed by Saudi Arabia and prominently backed by former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, has the support of national federations in Africa and Asia. But according to a FIFA-commissioned poll last week, football fans still support the four-year World Cup cycle — and influential continental confederations aren’t on board, either.
In a statement Wednesday, UEFA — European football’s governing body — said that it had “serious concerns” about the FIFA plan, and that it posed “real dangers” to football, including devaluing the World Cup, potentially harming players and having a negative impact on women’s tournaments.
Schinas’ intervention is also set to be echoed by European lawmakers, who are currently debating an own-initiative report on the EU’s sports policy.
According to one amendment to the Parliament’s report, put forward by lawmakers from across the Parliament’s political groups, the culture committee will vote at the end of October to call on sport organizations “to respect the established frequency of international sports tournaments, especially the European and World Championships.”
Tomasz Frankowski, co-chair of the Parliament’s sports group and a former professional footballer, said, “As a former football player, I am afraid that there would be a serious risk to health of players, forced to engage in summer high-intensity competitions every year instead of longer recuperation breaks in alternate years.”
“These plans would lead to the erosion of sporting opportunities for weaker national teams by replacing regular matches with final tournaments,” he added.
Earlier this month, the powerful South American football confederation came out against the biennial World Cup plan, and UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said that European countries could boycott the event, which would leave it effectively dead in the water.
FIFA said it had no specific response to Schinas’ comment, but added that it has an “open mind” and “encourages everybody to share their points of view in a positive spirit of dialogue.”
This story has been updated.