Fifa Prediction : FIFA’s plan for a biannual World Cup may be imperfect, but it would alleviate inequity among soccer nations.

“It’s all about the money,” says the narrator. You’ve probably seen opponents of FIFA’s proposed biannual World Cup make the same point, and guess what? It is, for the most part. And, in FIFA’s opinion, there’s nothing wrong with it. Their main goal is to “create the game, touch the globe, and make a better future.”

All of those activities need money or, at the very least, are a lot simpler to accomplish with money. FIFA funds – primarily the Forward Programme – are pretty much the only source of revenue for the vast majority of federations around the world, and because the World Cup is pretty much FIFA’s only source of revenue to fund its member federations, why wouldn’t they want twice as many World Cups every four years?

  • How the 2022 World Cup qualification process works throughout the world

My colleague often says, “FIFA going to FIFA,” and he’s correct. Complaining about FIFA wanting to create more competitions to generate more revenue so they can distribute more money to their members is similar to complaining about a union wanting better pay and working conditions, or about a private equity fund squeezing an asset to maximise profits on behalf of their clients. You may call it avarice, thirst for power, or anything you want, but it is clearly within their purview. And, to be honest, it corresponds well with the interests of their member organisations.

Around two-thirds of FIFA member nations do not have a professional men’s league, and much of the other third that does has facilities, pay, and working conditions comparable to League Two in England rather than the Premier League or LaLiga. These countries believe they are too far behind to rely on the club game to expand organically – the road plan that created the game in Europe and South America. In today’s globalised society, many advertisers and broadcasters would rather spend money on well-known items than whatever is available on their doorstep.

Take notice of how many sponsors come from outside of not only England, but Western Europe, the next time you watch a Premier League game. Consider the fact that, even in the world’s largest economy, the broadcast rights to the top local professional league (Major League Soccer) are less valuable than those to the Premier League, Spain’s LaLiga, and Italy’s Serie A. What these federations see is money streaming out of their own nations to Europe’s top leagues via sponsors and broadcasters, and they wonder how they will ever compete if even their own firms would rather throw money at already wealthy leagues halfway around the world.

“It’s a global economy, shut up and deal with it,” you may be inclined to reply. True, but don’t be shocked if FIFA, whose strength is derived from its 211 member associations, decides to cater to what the majority of their member associations want: more possibilities to play competitive matches and earn money for the game in their own nation.

Now is a good moment to state that I do not support Arsene Wenger’s proposed biannual World Cup schedule. I believe it contains some positive components, such as lowering the number of international breaks each year from five to three (or even two in the most radical form), cutting the number of World Cup qualifiers, and instituting mandated recovery periods following summer competition. There are some I don’t like as much, such as how they suddenly become vague about an expanded Club World Cup and where it would fit in the calendar, how a major international tournament every year might cannibalise sponsors and attention for the women’s game, and how, even with the rest period, we risk overworking a tiny group of players at the very least.

While we’re at it, I don’t like how this was handled, either, by commissioning (at Saudi Arabia’s request) a feasibility study with scant detail and sending Wenger around the world to preach the biennial World Cup gospel without first consulting other stakeholders such as confederations, leagues, and players. It appears to be a power move, which is why UEFA, CONMEBOL, FIFPro (the global players’ union), the World Leagues Forum, the European Club Association, and a number of other organisations have spoken out against it.

Imagine your spouse telling you they’ve decided to sell your house and move into a camper van without informing you: “Honey, I’ve decided to sign the paperwork next week, but don’t worry, I really care about what you think… in fact, you can help me choose the RV we’ll be living in for the rest of our lives.” Given the circumstances, it’s not unexpected that UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has broached the idea of boycotting a biannual World Cup. Wenger went so far as to say he hoped everything would be authorised by December.

Right now, it appears to be a game of chicken, and as is frequently the case, an 11th-hour agreement may be reached. The clock is ticking, however, because the International Match Calendar – the global Memorandum of Understanding between clubs, leagues, associations, confederations, and FIFA governing when games are played – expires in 2024, and in order to avoid chaos (and financial losses, as there are sponsorship and media rights contracts to be signed), a deal must be in place by this time.

The important thing to remember is that each stakeholder is looking out for the interests of its members. FIFA is promoting this because it is in the best interests of the vast majority of FIFA member countries (majority in number, not majority in terms of the cash they generate for the game). The fact that CONCACAF and the Asian Football Confederation both stated that they were “open” to the concept demonstrated this. The African confederation did as well, but the Oceania Football Confederation – and its 11 full FIFA members – appear to be content to discuss.

UEFA and CONMEBOL, which control the majority of the desired (and profitable) product, are behaving in the best interests of their stakeholders. FIFPro and the domestic leagues are doing the same thing, which, when you think about it, is exactly as it should be: private interests guarding their turf.

The overarching issue, though, will not go away. The game is extremely popular all over the world, but the majority of the money goes to two continents and, within those two continents, a few of countries (and, within that, a handful of clubs, all of them in western Europe). And it’s not only a matter of money; it’s also a matter of opportunity, development, and growth paths.

Depending on where you stand politically, you may or may not view this as an issue. That’s OK, but don’t blame FIFA for addressing the issue and capitalising on the “haves and have-nots” storyline. While their plan may have flaws, their approach may be incorrect, and their ultimate self-interest may not be purely altruistic (in football, as in politics, control of the purse-strings equals control of the world, and if FIFA president Gianni Infantino gains control of an even larger pot of money, he becomes even more powerful), they are responding to what they believe a majority of people want.

So, FIFA is FIFA, and while few of football’s governing bodies have sterling reputations — the last three permanent presidents of CONMEBOL (Nicolas Leoz, Eugenio Figuereido, and Juan Angel Napout) were all accused of corruption and banned from the game, the last four presidents of CONCACAF (Jack Warner, Lisle Austin, Alfredo Hawit, and Jeffrey Webb) were all either indicted or banned,

But it doesn’t mean they’re not doing their job by lobbying on behalf of their poorer members, who happen to be the majority. And opposition to their planned objectives cannot be justified only on the basis of advocacy.

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