THE BIG PICTURE: FIFA chief Infantino says of biennial World Cup concept: “We are not in a hurry.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (SUI) at the 72nd FIFA Congress (Photo: FIFA video sctreenshot)

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The 72nd FIFA Congress took place in Doha, Qatar on Thursday, a day ahead of the FIFA World Cup Draw, with no decisions on a possible change in the staging of future World Cups, but a lot of politics.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (SUI) was asked directly about the status of the every-two-years World Cup proposal in the post-Congress news conference:

“On the international match calendar … 88% of the Congress asked us last year to study the feasibility of a World Cup every two years, amongst other things.

“We did study that. We found out that it’s feasible and it would even be positive for a big part of the world, but there is, of course, also big opposition to it. And that’s exactly where the discussions have to start.

“Because, we could go for a vote, and get a majority vote for more competitions, but we are aware that it’s more important to exchange, to discuss and to see and try to convince everyone that it is important to do something more for football. Now, whether it’s a World Cup every two years, or every three years, a different type of competition – we had the Confederations Cup in the past – we have to think about what is best for the development of football and everyone has to realize that it’s not to the benefit of anyone to close itself, even if you are the biggest and the richest. It’s always better to be open, it’s always better to share a little bit, because those who are on the top, they will grow even more, but you give as well to all the others a chance. (Emphasis added)

“So we are looking at all different options. We are discussing with all confederations, with all member associations, and we will take the time that it takes. We are not in a hurry. The calendar is there until 2024, we have now a World Cup that takes place. Every final agreement in one week is great, if we find it in one year, it’s great as well. What we want to do is have an impact on the global football, an impact on really making football global and we take the time it takes, again, with the utmost of understanding for all the positions, respect for everyone, respect mainly as well for the institutions and I think this is crucial as well. …

“Now, some 100 years ago, some wise men decided that the World Cup should take place every four years. Times are evolving, let’s see what we can do better and how we can do better.

“But again, we take all the time it takes, we are not in a rush, we are not a hurry. It’s better to take a little more time and to do it right.”

So, for now, status quo. Infantino’s remarks inferred that the biennial proposal could be forced through, but the blowback from both inside and outside FIFA need to be addressed before introducing such a radical change to football and to the rest of the international sports world.

There were plenty of other issues on the table.

At the top was November’s World Cup in Qatar, around which significant debate was had on the Congress floor. Norwegian Football Federation President Lise Klaveness criticized the 2010 selection of Qatar and the acceptance by FIFA of holding the event in a country with unacceptable labor and social acceptance conditions, including:

“FIFA has addressed these issues, but there is still a long way to go. The migrant workers injured or families of those who died in the build up to the World Cup must be cared for. FIFA, all of us, must take all necessary measures to really implement change.”

Her comments were rebutted by organizing committee chief Hassan al-Thawadi, who noted the major labor reforms which have taken place since 2016, and by Infantino, whose closing remarks noted, “It has to be recognized that, six years later, the work that has been done, is exemplary. The work that in other countries has taken decades, has been done in a few years” and that the 2022 World Cup presents “an opportunity for the Arab world to present itself to the entire world.”

The Congress also saw an emotional, three-minute video from Ukrainian football federation head, Andriy Pavelk, delivered from Kyiv and while wearing a protective vest, which received wide applause.

Infantino said of the Qatar World Cup, it “will simply be the best World Cup ever and the biggest show on earth.” He also announced that he would be standing for a third term as FIFA President at the 2023 Congress.

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