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Soccer - 09 Sep 2021
European Leagues, the organisation that represents the continent’s top domestic soccer leagues, has today joined the growing ranks of those protesting against Fifa’s proposal for biennial World Cups.
This opposition comes despite claims from Arsene Wenger, now head of global football development at Fifa, that the idea has had a “very positive response”.
The board of directors of EL, which comprises twelve individuals elected for three-year terms variously representing the member leagues, met earlier today in Nyon, Switzerland, and subsequently released a statement to say they “have firmly and unanimously opposed any proposals to organise the FIFA World Cup every two years.”
EL had already called the idea “unrealistic”, but its statement formalises and strengthens the opposition.
Its stance aligns with the positions of soccer’s European governing body Uefa, the World Leagues Forum that represents professional leagues around the world at a global level, and a number of leading club sides.
EL has said it will “work together with the other stakeholders to prevent soccer governing bodies to take unilateral decisions that will harm domestic football."
The organisation has argued that soccer’s current problems, such as dealing with the financial fall-out of the coronavirus pandemic, cannot be solved by new or expanded competitions at club or national level, in what is already a congested global calendar for the game.
It also made a pointed comment regarding what it sees as Fifa driving forward its proposal without proper consultation, saying: “The football calendar definitely requires the agreement of all stakeholders and can only be the result of a subtle balance between club and national team football and between domestic and international club football.”
Wenger, meanwhile, who is behind the proposal and is this week is holding a consultation on it with 80 former players and coaches, held a virtual press conference today in which he said: "Overall, I think I have got a very positive response, but this decision is a democratic decision and will be made certainly by the 211 countries who are affiliated to FIFA.”
Pushed on whether the idea of a biennial World Cup could cause conflict within the game, he said: "I'm not hesitant at all. I'm 100% convinced that what I propose is the right solution for the modern way to organise football. If people have better ideas, I'm open to it and I welcome every idea that is better than mine...
Wenger says a decision about how or whether to move forward with the proposal could be made in December.
Fifa has been assessing the idea ever since it was first proposed by the Saudi Football Federation at Fifa’s most recent congress in July.
Gianni Infantino, Fifa's president, called the original suggestion from the Saudis “an eloquent and detailed proposal", and the vote to set up the feasibility study secured 166 votes in favour from the various worldwide national federations, with only 22 federations voting against.
So far, the Confederation of African Football has endorsed the idea, as have the national federations of Bangladesh, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Yesterday, Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, refused to comment publicly on the idea when asked at a press conference, saying that his organisation "will not interfere."