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Soccer: The biennial World Cup, getting closer and closer

Infantino looks at the World Cup trophy as Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani speaks to him. / AFP

Infantino has the support of most of the federations to take that step, to which he has promised 16.8 million if the plan goes ahead.

Beñat Arnaiz

FIFA held a world summit yesterday with all its member federations to discuss, mainly, the suitability of holding the World Cup every two years instead of four, as has been done since 1930 in men’s football and 1991 in women’s. Gianni Infantino promised from Qatar, the epicenter of football in 2022, that each of the federations will receive an additional 16.8 million distributed over four years in the event that the intercontinental competition becomes biennial, a decision that is not expected to be imminent.

The president of FIFA and his team, which also includes former coach Arsene Wenger in his capacity as director of World Football Development, having made this announcement, would have the majority support of the smaller federations, which subsist thanks to the contributions of FIFA itself.

The highest entity in world football presented two studies commissioned to independent cabinets to certify the economic advantages of holding a World Cup every two years, a cycle that would begin to be implemented from 2026. All the reasons set out at the summit held behind closed doors and that have come to light by Marca and AFP are economic, with concrete figures. Nielsen has estimated that the extra income from the tournament would amount to 4.4 billion dollars, 3.9 billion euros, in four years.

More money

A study commissioned by FIFA evaluates the extra revenue of the tournament at 3.9 billion in four years

This increase would come from ticket sales, television rights and sponsorships, since this projection is linked to the fact that the participating teams increase from 32 to 48 in the tournament that will be hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States. Revenues would rise from the currently anticipated $ 7 billion to $ 11,400, according to the study. The 16.8 million would come from the latter and from the result of the creation of a new “solidarity fund”, which would be endowed with 3,100 million euros.

The second study, by OpenEconomics and to which Marca has had access, indicates that holding a World Cup every two years would produce “an increase in GDP of more than 180,000 million dollars in 16 years and would contribute to creating almost 2 million permanent jobs additional ”.

UEFA and Conmebol, against

The greatest opposition to this reform, which would radically change the order and calendar of current football, is held by UEFA and Conmebol, the union of the most important associations of this sport in Europe and South America.

Ceferin, president of the first, defends that this plan seeks to make European football lose the supreme position it has in world football – twenty years will be gone without a non-European team having won a World Cup, since Brazil in 2002 – and points out, according to a study commissioned by them, that “a biennial World Cup would reduce the income of the European federations by about 3,000 million euros in four years.”

Given this, FIFA responded at its summit yesterday that “the historical evolution of the income of the most relevant clubs and of the final tournaments of the national teams does not show any apparent rivalry between the two. The revenue generated by the five main European leagues and the Champions League has increased constantly year after year, regardless of whether the main final tournaments of national teams overlap.

So far it all comes down to money and the sporting advantages and disadvantages of holding a World Cup every two years and have not yet been wielded by either side.

A New York Times chronicler compares this situation to the rise of detective television series – “people like it, we are going to do more” – while Philipp Lahm, former player of the German national team and Bayern Munich and current director of Euro 2024, expresses in a column in The Guardian that “reducing the period between World Cups will give the impression that everything is money in football. What Infantino and Wenger have in mind could lead us to excessive consumption that would drag continental competitions at that rate as well. ”

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