FIFA will investigate the possibility of hosting the World Cup every two years instead of four, for both the men’s and women’s tournaments, the governing body has acknowledged.
The organization will launch a feasibility study into the ramifications of such a decision after a proposal was put forth by the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) at the annual congress.
The next men’s tournament will be held in Qatar at the end of 2022, with Australia/New Zealand 2023 to follow eight months later for the women’s game, but any potential future reshuffle would likely force widespread changes in both the club game and with continental tournaments such as the European Championship and Copa America.
What has been said?
“We believe the future of football is at a critical juncture,” SAFF president Yasser Al-Misehal said in presenting the plan.
“The many issues that football has faced have now been further exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.
“It is important to review how the global game is structured, which should include whether the current four-year cycle remains the optimum basis for how football is managed both from a competition and a commercial perspective as well as overall football development.
“Having fewer yet more meaningful competitive national team matches could potentially address concerns regarding player welfare whilst at the same time enhancing the value and merit of such competitions.”
Is such a move set in stone?
Any potential change to the way that the existing system is run will likely take years, with no official end date for the feasibility study indicated by FIFA.
President Gianni Infantino indicated that any investigation would not be rushed at the congress, saying: “We have to go into these studies with an open mind but we are not going to take decisions which will jeopardize what we are [already] doing. We know about the value of the World Cup, believe me.
“I would like to put this discussion in a much broader context, that of the international match calendar. Are we really convinced that playing qualifying games [across the year] is the right way when we are saying that fans want more meaningful games?
“All these points have to be considered. But we will put the sporting element as the top priority, not the commercial element.”