Monday, September 20, 2021

By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter

European clubs are becoming increasingly frustrated by what they see as a brazen FIFA PR campaign in favour of radical changes to the international match calendar which include biennial World Cups.

The PA news agency understands clubs have misgivings about the manner in which FIFA is consulting over its proposals, which would mean a major men’s finals tournament at the end of every season.

The current international match calendar is underpinned by a Memorandum of Understanding between FIFA and the European Club Association which runs to next year and was based on detailed negotiations.

PA understands there is concern among the continent’s clubs that this time FIFA is trying to railroad other stakeholders without sufficient consultation.

They believe the world governing body has effectively undermined its position as global regulator of the game by not making detailed consultation the starting point for drawing up proposals.

They are concerned, like UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, that a biennial World Cup would dilute the importance of the competition, and be detrimental to the club game at domestic and international level and to player welfare.

The widespread opposition from European clubs – who employ many of the top stars who play in FIFA’s flagship competition – follows a statement of firm and unanimous opposition to FIFA’s calendar plans issued by the European Leagues group, which includes the Premier League among its membership.

FIFA announced on Monday morning that it will hold an online summit with football associations from all over the world next week to discuss its plans for the men’s and women’s international calendars.

The September 30 summit is in addition to separate invitations sent by FIFA earlier this month to stakeholders including all the confederations, the ECA, the World Leagues Forum and world players’ union FIFPRO. It is intended to be the first of several opportunities for a “constructive and open debate” on the proposals.

FIFA released the results of a fans’ survey last week which found a majority of respondents were in favour of a change of frequency to the World Cup.

Of that majority, most favoured a World Cup every two years. However, in each age category the most popular choice in terms of percentage figure was to retain the status quo. The IRIS survey was commissioned by FIFA but independently conducted by YouGov.

A technical advisory group looking at the men’s calendar is being led by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s head of global development. The women’s equivalent is spearheaded by former United States coach Jill Ellis.

A statement from FIFA on Monday morning read: “FIFA is committed to being a forum for meaningful debate by engaging with a wide range of stakeholders including fans and looks forward to discussions on the sustainable growth of football in all regions of the world, at all levels.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said he would like the member associations to be in a position to vote on the calendar changes before the end of the year.

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