World Cup every two years seems unlikely, but here’s what a compromise might look like

On Monday, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, speaking at a global summit of FIFA member states, revealed that the biennial men’s World Cup will likely generate an additional $4.4 billion (up around 60%) over four years over the current tournament. every four years. He said there may have been enough support among members to agree to this now, but that he would conduct more consultations in an effort to push for broader and more comprehensive reforms.

Several stakeholders – including continental confederations such as UEFA and CONMEBOL, organizations such as Fédération Internationale de Football Association and FIFA, FIFPRO, as well as clubs and federations primarily in Europe and South America – oppose this idea, and some have produced their own studies that It reveals that the World Cup once every two years will be financially damaging.

So what is going on here? Are we really heading to the World Cup every two years? Here are frequently asked questions to help you understand this.

Q: If Infantino was so sure that the majority of FIFA members support the biennial World Cup, why didn’t he call for a vote?

a: Well, he said “probably”, so he’s probably not 100% sure. More realistically, he is aware that there is still a lot of opposition, primarily from some of the richest and most influential regions in the world, starting with UEFA and its members. There have even been suggestions that UEFA and CONMEBOL might boycott the World Cup every two years, apparently without them, not getting an additional $4.4 billion.

Q: Why are they so opposed? Don’t they want to make more money?

a: Of course, but they also want to be the ones handing out the money. For a start, the biennial World Cup could mean shifting continental competitions – such as the European Championship and Copa America – to odd years, which in turn means that there will be a major tournament every summer. Since the World Cup is the biggest event and there are only too many sponsors and broadcast dollars, the biennial competition can undo the revenue that would have gone to the continental competitions. Perhaps the extra $4.4 billion (assuming that’s a realistic expectation, opinions differ) will help mitigate that, but know this: If you generate money through your tournament, you decide who receives it. FIFA runs the World Cup. FIFA has to decide.

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But there is more. The biennial World Cup also means a redrawing of the international match calendar, the main document that determines when football is played, from club competitions to international matches. The last match calendar expires in 2024, so the game’s power brokers will have to come to a new agreement no matter what happens to the World Cup. But it is a delicate ecosystem, balancing the needs of clubs (which pay players and generate the most revenue) with the needs of international players. And all this at a time when many, like FIFPro, are warning that top players are competing in too many matches, risking fatigue and injury.

Everyone wants to have their say and committing to the World Cup every two years means another big part of the calendar.

Q: Still, couldn’t Infantino simply force it if he had the votes? Then, once it’s in place, figure out the main timeline?

a: In theory, yes, but that was somewhere between dictatorial and reckless. Majority rule is great, but you still have to protect the rights of minorities. It is always best to rule by consensus, where possible.

In addition, CONMEBOL and, in particular, UEFA, together with President Aleksander Ceferin, seem determined to stop the Infantino plan but also have a lot of leverage. After all, most of the game’s stars are from South America or Europe, and this is where the biggest clubs in the world reside – and clubs, of course, prefer club football to international football. Europe and South America have formed such a strong alliance that it is likely that South American clubs will eventually participate in the UEFA Nations League (you assume it will be renamed if that happens).

Also, for the time being, after his successful battle to stop the Premier League, Ceferin has political support in Europe among most of the top clubs (except for the three who are taking legal action against UEFA over the Premier League – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus – – although they may not They want more international tournaments too.)

Q: If so, why is Infantino still following it? Is it just about money?

a: Sure, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. I wrote a column about this a while ago. FIFA wants to make more money, but once they do, it’s not as if they are sitting on a pile of cash. They redistribute that money to their 211 members around the world. The more distributed, the happier the members and the higher the probability of re-election of the FIFA President.

FIFA’s mission statement is to develop the game. This requires organization and infrastructure, which costs money. Most football associations around the world get the bulk of their funding directly from FIFA. The men’s World Cup accounts for more than 90% of FIFA’s income. So, the simplest way to increase revenue is to either pump more money from the quadrennial World Cup or hold the tournament more often.

Q: What about independent studies on the economic impact of the biennial World Cup? Do we know what the effect will really be?

a: FIFA commissioned Nielsen, which came up with that extra figure of $4.4 billion if we go to the World Cup every two years. They also found that if each confederation also hosted a continental tournament every two years (some, such as CONCACAF and CAF CAF already do), it would generate an additional $6.6 billion every four years. Another study by FIFA, by a group called OpenEconomics, which focuses on the macroeconomic impact, predicts that the world’s GDP will increase by more than $180 billion and create two million permanent jobs over 16 years with the World Cup every two years.

Looks good, doesn’t it? Well, UEFA also commissioned a report from a company called Oliver & Ohlbaum that said changing the international calendar to accommodate the World Cup every two years would cost European federations up to $4 billion in lost revenue. The World Leagues Forum has its own study, which was more bleak and bleaker. Conducted by KPMG and Delta Partners, this study projects a loss of $9 billion in revenue, match-day income and commercial agreements.

Q: How could these studies be so different in their predictions?

a: Partly because they all measure slightly different standards. The Nielsen study by FIFA, for example, measured World Cup revenues every two years. The Oliver and Ohlbaum study by UEFA looked at the general impact on European national associations, not just the biennial World Cup, but proposed changes to the calendar (necessary to make this possible) as well; The World Leagues report also looked at the impact on club football and local leagues.

And at the risk of being ridiculed, because when these studies are published they tend to shed light on the information that supports those who commissioned the report. I think it’s safe to say that the biennial World Cup will make more money for FIFA than European and European football. Just how much and whether it is desirable are the main issues.

Then there’s the fact, as I said, that it’s not just about making more money (given that it’s generally redistributed), it’s about being the one redistributing it. So even if the match went out, I doubt UEFA would be very happy with that.

However, Infantino is too smart to fight battles he can’t win.

Q: What do you mean?

a: Well, there is an easy way for him to rephrase the debate. Basically, make it up to the wealthy in Europe who don’t want to share the financial pie with the rest of the world. And then, even if the biennial World Cup doesn’t materialize, you’ll still get the support of most of the world, because at least you tried.

Q: So what is the most likely outcome?

a: I don’t think we’ll go to the World Cup every two years, but there will probably be some sort of compromise where everyone takes a step back and sacrifices something. They are the dangers of democracy. There are 211 member countries of FIFA, and realistically more than half of them will only experience the World Cup on TV. At the same time, they probably wouldn’t exist without direct funding from FIFA. So it is clear that they will want more chances to qualify, and more than that, the same amount of money that FIFA can give them. Otherwise, they may vote for a different president.

This is why FIFA is determined to increase revenue. If it’s not another men’s World Cup, it could be another competition, something that will generate revenue but doesn’t require a whole new qualification process like the World Cup. It could be a new (and expanded) Confederations Cup, with slots dedicated to, for example, the reigning world champion, the next World Cup host nation, continental competition winners, Nations League winners and whatever else you need to get to, let’s say 16 teams. You can still get many heavy hitters out there, but such an option would be shorter and less annoying.

I think another possibility is to hold the Club World Cup every four years. That would probably be more lucrative, even if the clubs wanted to cut it. And you wonder how UEFA will feel about it, given that it is their big clubs that will generate the most money and interest.

No less important, though, is an agreement on the international match calendar. There seems to be a broad consensus on reducing the number of international breaks (while making them longer) but how and when you schedule them has to be worked out. There is a natural cliff edge here: if world football does not reach an agreement at least nine to 12 months before the current deal expires in June 2024, it will be very detrimental to the game financially, given that it will be impossible to plan and sell the means. Media and commercial rights.

And if there’s one thing that unites the forces of football – it’s their unwillingness to get hit where it hurts…in the wallet.


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