Damaging sporting and financial impact for football and fans.
Article top media content
An independent study conducted by the renowned consultancy firm Oliver & Ohlbaum at the request of UEFA, assesses the economic impact that a biennial World Cup and a new International Match Calendar, for both men’s and women’s football, designed in accordance with the project presented by FIFA would have on European national associations.
The alarming findings of the report, which raise severe concerns over the sustainability of the plan for European associations, come on top of several remarks addressing effects on various areas of the game and its competitions.
The announced objective of softening the calendar burden for players is at odds with the duplication of final tournaments, which would see every season finish with a World Cup or a confederation championship. Tournaments of such intensity cannot be repeated every year without increasing mental and physical exhaustion of players, who would actually find themselves playing even more than one tournament per season, if all qualifications matches were staged in one or two long blocks.
Increasing the number of final tournaments and reducing qualifiers would make players with the busiest schedules play even more, while leaving all the others with less in their calendar. The same would happen to their national teams. Teams not reaching final tournaments in the proposed scheme would not only play fewer matches in total but lose regular contact with their fan-base due to the long periods of inactivity.
A calendar that does not fit with the technical needs of national teams, does not offer the possibility to test and gradually introduce new players and which may expose them to play an entire qualification cycle without key injured players, would at the same time impact the leagues, exposing them to excessively long breaks, which would be detrimental for all - especially for those playing the summer season and those that must suspend their championships in winter for climatic reasons. A month-long activity of national teams would leave non-international players without competition while their international colleagues would play intensively. Clubs would bear the consequences of such inconsistency.
Women’s football would not be spared, despite the announced intention of doubling the number of Women’s World Cups, as top tournaments would no longer enjoy calendar exclusivity and full spotlight, with guaranteed negative impacts in terms of exposure and fans’ and media interest.
Together with the end of the Under-21 European championship, the whole system of youth national team championship would need to be reviewed and probably scaled down, as an effect of the shrinking of windows available for national team football.
As remarked by IOC, the plan of doubling the frequency of the World Cup would cast worrying effects over many other sports, whose key events would face unprecedented calendar clashes and see their spaces intruded by a powerful competitor.
In this dark sporting context, the research conducted by Oliver & Ohlbaum projects a deeply negative outlook for European national team football, should the FIFA plan be implemented.
Adding up the losses from centralised revenues (media rights of men’s European Qualifiers and Nations League; distributions from UEFA EURO) and from individual sources such as ticketing and sponsorships, revenues for European national associations might drop between €2.5 and €3 billion over a cycle of four years, depending on the number of qualifying windows available (two or just one).
Echoing the clear objections expressed by the European stakeholders on several occasions and the firm and motivated opposition announced by fans’ organisations, UEFA believes that radical changes should be proposed only if they result in clear and unquestionable benefits for the game and its actors.