The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), has said that the proposals by soccer’s governing body Fifa regarding holding its prestigious men’s World Cup biennially could be damaging for both the sport itself and other sports.
Commenting on the proposals which have been circulating widely (both inside Fifa and externally) over holding the iconic tournament once every two years instead of once every four, the ASOIF Council said: “These proposals from Fifa could impact the healthy development of sport and also put the sustainability of other international federations’ events at risk.
“The impact of holding the World Cup biennially, as well as the new introduction or expansion of European leagues and competitions, would be considerable not only within the popular world of football but for all sports globally.”
Fifa will hold a global summit on 20 December to discuss the idea of doubling the frequency of the World Cup, an idea which was first mooted by the Saudi Football Federation at Fifa’s most recent congress in July and is currently meant to be going through a feasibility study.
Gianni Infantino, Fifa’s president, has suggested that his organisation will wait for the results of the feasibility study and also an economic analysis of the impact a biennial World Cup would have, both of which are expected to be delivered before the summit, before taking any decisive action.
The ASOIF council said that taking a “unilateral decision on such an important matter will have widespread consequences which must not be underestimated …
“The council urges the different authorities to fully consult and consider the matter carefully and then engage with the global sports community in order to find an appropriate way forward.”
ASOIF added that the plan “creates upheaval … the harmonisation of the sports calendar is a challenging and delicate task which deserves more attention and consideration in a spirit of constructive coordination.”
Late last month, the International Olympic Committee issued thinly veiled criticism of the biennial World Cup plans.
In a statement, the Olympic governing body said: “A number of international federations of other sports, national football federations, clubs, players, player associations and coaches have expressed strong reservations and concerns regarding the plans to generate more revenue for Fifa…
“The IOC shares these concerns and supports the calls of stakeholders of football, international sports federations and major event organisers for a wider consultation, including with athletes' representatives, which has obviously not taken place.”
The IOC will have serious reservations over how a Fifa World Cup held biennially would affect the Summer Olympics. A World Cup held every two years in the summer would probably end up clashing with every single edition of the Olympics, which would detract from the value of both events – starting in 2028 when the latter event is due to take place in Los Angeles, USA.
The IOC is by far the largest sporting body to have had its say on the biennial World Cup proposals so far, although all of Fifa’s continental confederations have also issued statements.
Three of those bodies – North and Central America’s Concacaf, the Asian Football Confederation and the Confederation of African Football – have either said they support the proposal or are willing to approach it with an open mind, while European soccer's Uefa and its South American equivalent Conmebol (both of which carry significant weight in the game) have said they are categorically opposed to the idea.
European soccer’s governing body Uefa has meanwhile been reported by the media as finding in an internal report that a biennial Fifa World Cup would lead to losses at European soccer’s governing body of between €2.5 billion and €3 billion during every four-year cycle.
The original suggestion for a biennial World Cup from the Saudis was referred to by Infantino as “an eloquent and detailed proposal” earlier this summer, and the subsequent vote to set up a feasibility study secured 166 votes in favour from the various worldwide national federations, with only 22 federations standing against.
Proponents of the biennial World Cup proposal have said it will give smaller nations a greater chance of competing on the world’s biggest stage and play more top-tier tournaments, while those who stand against the idea have said it will overwhelm the international fixture calendar and lead to an increase in player fatigue and injury.
The next Fifa World Cup is set for November and December 2022 in Qatar.