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Players’ union deplores ‘lack of vision’ with biennial World Cup

The world footballers’ union FIFPro attacked the “lack of holistic vision” of the game’s institutions, including FIFA’s proposal for a biennial World Cup, with its general secretary, saying the debates were prompted by “commercial interests”.

Speaking by videoconference on the sidelines of the presentation Tuesday of a report on the playing demands of professional players, Jonas Baer-Hoffmann called for a “reasonable and effective reform” to lighten the burden on footballers and reduce the chance of injury.

“There is an absolute lack of holistic vision and leadership from most of the institutions,” he said about FIFA’s proposal for a biennial World Cup. 

“It is very much a transactional affair in which proposals, whether good, bad or ugly for football have very little basis for a conversation or consultation, because everything is aligned to the commercial interests of different competitions. 

“That really undermines our chance to have a reasonable and effective reform.

“We would really like to try to differentiate between conversations about the calendar and that about competitions. These are two very separate conversations.”

‘Merit’ in condensing windows –

The debate around the international calendar and a World Cup every two years has been revived in recent weeks by ex-Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s head of global development. 

Wenger says the idea would be to have a final phase every summer from 2025-2026, alternating World Cups and continental tournaments like the European Championships and Copa America. Qualifying matches would be grouped together in October, or in October and March.

He refutes the argument that the players would face increased strain, arguing that they would have to make fewer long journeys and would have a minimum of 25 days rest after playing in summer tournaments for their countries.

A full report is due to be released by FIFA in November, ahead of a “global summit” by the end of the year.

The idea has already led to widespread criticism from managers, while UEFA has been scathing in its response but FIFPro struck a more pragmatic approach.

“Condensing windows is an interesting one,” said Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.

“We had a first meeting with FIFA about this about a week ago. There is a lot in this whole proposal we still need to look at and analyse.

“Reducing windows would be a positive as it would reduce travel. FIFA are also suggesting going from 10 games we have in the current window down to seven. 

“I see upsides for coaches who would have more time to work with players, so there is merit.”

He warned, however, that the biennial competition could just make the rich football nations richer at the expense of developing countries.

“The entire potential thought process for innovation is being put into the peak of the pyramid,” he said. 

“The notion seems to be: ‘let’s generate as much money there as possible and then there might be some trickle-down to help the pyramid out’. 

“I don’t think that’s working particularly well.”

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