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Football’s latest civil war: FIFA claims ‘majority of fans’ want World Cup to be held more often… plenty of others disagree

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World football governing body FIFA has claimed that surveys show the majority of fans want the World Cup to be played more regularly, setting itself further on a collision course with groups which oppose the plans.

FIFA is plugging the idea of halving the World Cup cycle so that the tournament is played every two years instead of the current four.

After initially being floated by Saudi Arabia, the idea is being trumpeted by the likes of former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger – now FIFA’s head of global development and an ally of FIFA chief Gianni Infantino.

The notion is that more frequent World Cups would allow for more meaningful matches for players outside the major leagues (mainly Europe) and will streamline the international calendar so there is less travel during the season and far fewer international friendlies.

Arsene Wenger is actively promoting the new plans. © Reuters


FIFA now claims the majority of fans are on board with the idea of playing the tournament more regularly. 

“A survey has provided feedback as part of the feasibility study regarding the frequency of the men’s FIFA World Cup,” FIFA said in a statement on Thursday.

“The findings of this online survey, conducted in July 2021, will be used as part of a wider consultation process involving fans, which will take place over several phases.

“Fifteen thousand respondents were identified as expressing an interest in football and the FIFA World Cup, from a broader market research survey involving 23,000 people in 23 countries, across six confederations, commissioned via IRIS and YouGov, independent industry experts.”

FIFA boss Infantino is pushing the plan. © Reuters


The statement added:Based on initial results, the following conclusions can be drawn:

“The majority of fans would like to see a more frequent men’s FIFA World Cup; of this majority, the preferred frequency is biennial; there are considerable differences between the so-called traditional markets and the developing football markets; and younger generations in all regions are more open and interested in change than older generations.”

France are the current world champions. © Reuters


FIFA added that it will continue research into the topic in an expanded survey of over 100,000 people in more than 100 countries.

Perhaps importantly, however, digging into the details revealed differences among what ‘more regularly’ means.  

Sports reporter Martyn Ziegler noted that the survey of around 15,000 fans showed that 55% would like a World Cup more often (divided among categories of every one, two or three years), as opposed to 45% to keep the status quo – but looking at each option of how frequently the event should be held, most still backed a four-yearly version.  

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Full results here of the FIFA World Cup fans survey – in every age group the highest number preferred a four-yearly World Cup… for some reason FIFA didn’t mention that in its press release pic.twitter.com/NKczmN4E2Y

— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) September 16, 2021

The question asked was: “without taking into account any other impact of rescheduling the current cycle how often would you like to see a World Cup”. 45% every 4 years, 30% every 2 years, 14% every three years, 11% every year.

— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) September 16, 2021

The claims from FIFA of fan support have raised eyebrows, not least as many have accused the organization of making a cynical money grab by trying to generate extra revenue.

Major groups in world football have already threatened to stifle the plan in its infancy, including UEFA and South American counterparts CONMEBOL.

UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin has warned that European nations could even boycott the tournament, should it shift to a biennial format.

UEFA boss Ceferin is against the plans. © Reuters


The world players’ union – Fifpro – has also cautioned that the proposals will not have any chance of success without the support of players.

Elsewhere, national competitions such as the English Premier League have also spoken out against the idea.  

Despite opposition from some of football’s governing big guns, there is support for the plan from the African Football Confederation and several countries in Asia and beyond.

I haven’t decided if a World Cup every two years is a good thing or not…but I lived the power of a World Cup, and it changed my life forever. Shouldn’t more players have that opportunity?

Some thoughts on FIFA’s Biennial World Cup proposal. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/g8YBK3tPG9

— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) September 13, 2021

At a vote earlier this year on whether investigations should be carried out into the issue, 166 of FIFA’s 211 national associations backed the research.  

The World Cup began its four-year cycle way back in 1930 – only being disrupted during the Second World War. The last edition was held in Russia in 2018 and was widely hailed as the best ever tournament.

The next  World Cup kicks off in Qatar in 2022, and will be a unique ‘winter edition’ held between November 21 and December 18.   

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