International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach insisted he will not “put fuel to the fire” by taking a side on the proposal which would see the FIFA World Cup played every two years – potentially clashing with the Olympic Games – but did claim the ramifications of such a move are “becoming clearer day by day”.
FIFA approved a feasibility study on hosting men’s and women’s World Cups every two years at its Congress in May, following a proposal from Saudi Arabia – a country FIFA President Gianni Infantino has close relationship with.
FIFA’s chief of global development Arsène Wenger is among those to have supported the idea and is leading a technical advisory group meeting in Qatar today and tomorrow, featuring current and former players from across the world.
Bach was asked after today’s remote IOC Executive Board meeting whether the IOC has been consulted on the matter and how a World Cup potentially taking place in the same year as the Olympic Games could impact both events, but remained coy.
“This is an issue to be decided by FIFA and the continental associations, we are following closely, monitoring these discussions, and find them very interesting,” Bach said.
The IOC President said he “will not interfere” in the debate.
“Let this discussion evolve, the consequences or potential consequences of such a move [are] becoming clearer day by day thanks to thanks to this discussion within FIFA and in particular there also through the contributions of the continental associations of FIFA,” added Bach.
One of those continental bodies, UEFA, has been vociferous in opposition to the proposal.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said he believes “the jewel of the World Cup has value precisely because of its rarity” in the European body’s latest criticism of staging World Cups every two years.
Yet there is support for the idea from Confederation of African Football President Patrice Motsepe, who claimed “African football could probably be the biggest beneficiary of a World Cup every two years”.
The FIFA member associations from Bangladesh, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka all came out in support of the idea earlier this month and the South American Football Confederation has expressed support for a biennial World Cup previously as well.
The World Leagues Forum – an association of club leagues including the English Premier League, German, French, Spanish and Italian top flights, Major League Soccer in North America, South Africa’s Premier Soccer League and the J.League from Japan among its 42 members – weighed in today, saying it “firmly opposes” the idea.
The World Leagues Forum “oppose any proposals to hold the football World Cup every two years and dilute the historical and traditional values of a competition that means so much to fans and players”, a statement added.
Proponents of World Cups every two years say this will generate more money and give players more opportunities to win a world title, while it has also been suggested that biennial tournaments could streamline the international calendar, with less time used for qualifying.
Critics, as well as claiming it would dilute the quality of the tournaments, have accused FIFA of chasing revenue and power, and fear that continental competitions would be squeezed out and undermined.