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09th Sep 2021

UEFA threatens European and South American boycott of biennial World Cup

Simon Lloyd

Wenger’s proposal appears to have hit a major stumbling block

FIFA’s hopes of pushing through plans for holding a World Cup every two years appear to have been dealt a significant blow, with UEFA president warning European and South American countries could choose to boycott the biennial tournament.

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, now FIFA’s head of global development, outlined details of a radical overhaul of the football calendar in Doha on Thursday. Part of the plan would see World Cups and European Championships held in alternate years.

The proposal has already drawn plenty of criticism from within European football, with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin questioning whether it was necessary during a speech given to the European Clubs Association last week.

In an interview given to The Times, Ceferin has stressed his belief that doubling the number of World Cups would “kill football”. He has also criticised FIFA for not consulting UEFA before unveiling the plans.

Asked directly how UEFA could stop the proposals from becoming reality, Ceferin said: “We can decide not to play in it. As far as I know, the South Americans are on the same page. So good luck with a World Cup like that. I think it will never happen as it is so much against the basic principles of football.

“To play every summer a one-month tournament, for the players, it’s a killer. If it’s every two years it clashes with the women’s World Cup, with the Olympic football tournament.

“The value is precisely because it is every four years, you wait for it, it’s like the Olympic Games, it’s a huge event. I don’t see our federations supporting that.

“I hope they will come to their senses, because I don’t see the right approach to go everywhere except the confederations, not to speak to us. They didn’t come, they didn’t call, I didn’t get a letter or anything. I just read in the media.”

Wenger insists he has received a positive response from FIFA members about the possibility of holding a World Cup every two years, but a tournament without European or South American representation, however, would drastically lose lots of its allure. Never before has the tournament been won by a country from outside of those two continents.

Speaking about the proposal on Thursday, Wenger explained there would be multiple benefits for different parties if his new football calendar was passed.

“Our mission is to plan and shape the football of tomorrow and to improve the competition of global football. The objectives were first less travel for players, no increase in the number of the games, guaranteed rest for players and more meaningful games. That’s what the fans demand, and more chances to shine, and to close the gap.

“All the confederations have to have access to top, top games, not just Europe and South America.”