Proper consultation, rather than media announcements needed on impact and consequences of potential radical move
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In May 2021, the FIFA Congress mandated the FIFA administration to conduct a study into the feasibility of a Men’s and Women’s World Cup every two years.
UEFA assumes that the word ‘feasibility’ encompasses all effects and consequences and includes all issues relating to:
- the calendar, formats and access of the final and preliminary competitions;
- the impact on existing club and national team competitions, their sporting and commercial opportunities;
- the impact on players’ physical and mental health;
- the impact on fans, their desire to see more frequent tournaments of this standing, the sustainability for them of more frequent travelling;
- the impact on the broad football eco-system, by which we mean assessing the balance of opportunities that national teams from all 211 FIFA member associations would have to develop in such a radically changed scenario;
- the impact of more frequent World Cup final tournaments on the value and appeal of the event and its brand;
- the impact on other vital parts of football, such as women’s competitions that are in a phase of rapid expansion which requires enhanced visibility and exclusivity spaces;
- the impact on youth tournaments, which have minimal commercial implications but have everything to do with the development of young talents;
- the impact on the global sports system and respect that football, as the most followed sport worldwide, must show to consolidated spaces of exposure and exploitation used by other sports.
While waiting to learn the detailed results of the study commissioned by the FIFA Congress that will cover all the mentioned areas, UEFA acknowledges that FIFA has presented a proposal entailing a doubling of World Cup final tournaments as of 2028 as well as Confederations’ final tournaments as of 2025, combined with massive restructuring of the dates reserved by the International Match Calendar for the matches regularly played by all 211 FIFA member associations.
We are grateful for the attention reserved to the UEFA European Championship, with the proposed double frequency of its final event, but we prefer to address such a sensitive matter with a comprehensive rather than speculative approach.
UEFA is disappointed with the methodology adopted, which has so far led to radical reform projects being communicated and openly promoted before having been given, together with other stakeholders, the chance to participate in any consultation meeting.
There are real dangers associated with this plan:
- the dilution of the value of the No.1 world football event, whose quadrennial occurrence gives it a mystique that generations of fans have grown up with;
- the erosion of sporting opportunities for the weaker national teams by replacing regular matches with final tournaments;
- the risk to sustainability for players, forced to engage in summer high intensity competitions every year instead of longer recuperation breaks in alternate years;
- the risk for the future of women’s tournaments, deprived of exclusive slots and overshadowed by the proximity of top men’s events.
These are just some of the serious concerns that the FIFA proposal provokes at first glance and they cannot be dispelled simply with unsubstantiated promotional slogans on the supposed benefits of a thicker calendar for final tournaments.
UEFA is of the opinion that the future of the international calendar should be the subject of genuine consultation and exchange between FIFA, the confederations and key stakeholders of competitions, kicking off with an open discussion on perceived problems and considering a range of solutions that will be identified in the course of the debate, taking into account the interest of the game and the legitimate point of view of the different parties.
In this phase, the respect for a consultation process with the stakeholders – which should be unbiased – would suggest abstaining from promotional campaigns of unilaterally pre-determined concepts that nobody has been given the possibility to see in detail and which have wide-ranging, often unexpected, effects.
On 14 September, UEFA and its 55 member associations asked FIFA to organise a special meeting with them to be able to voice their concerns on the impact of such plans. UEFA and its 55 member associations have to-date not yet received a reply from FIFA on this request.