FIFA planning to make radical change to the World Cup
Football is the world’s most-watched and most-played sport. Annual competitions like the UEFA Champions League attract hundreds of millions of viewers, however, that still isn’t the biggest football competition. That title belongs to the FIFA World Cup and bookmarkers are part of it, taking a spike in the weeks leading up to the World Cup and keep rising until the final game. We already see most companies in the industry like oddschecker running even more free bet offers during this competition that takes place every four years to decide which country is the best at playing the beautiful game.
Something that makes this tournament unique is the four years of waiting in between, but that’s something that could change. The format and frequency of the FIFA World Cup have remained fairly consistent since it began, although it has been expanded several times to allow for more teams to take part in the finals.
The four-year cycle has been in place since the first-ever World Cup, with the exception of a gap in the 1940s, and it mirrors the schedule used by the summer and winter Olympic Games.
That could all be about to change though if a plan put forward by FIFA is approved.
The History of the World Cup
The first World Cup took place in 1930, though international tournaments had been held at the Olympic Games since the start of the 20th century. It took place in Uruguay, but since this was in a time before routine intercontinental air travel, it was a logistical nightmare for European nations, with only four agreeing to take part
The hosts won the first-ever World Cup title after beating Yugoslavia 6-1 in the semi-final and Argentina 4-2 in the final.
In 2002, the first radical change to the format was made when hosting duties were shared between South Korea and Japan, instead of them being assigned to a single country. The first World Cup held on the African continent took place in 2010, while this year’s competition in Qatar will be the first one that takes place in November and December, instead of the summer.
The 2026 World Cup is already scheduled to be radically different since it will take place in three countries for the first time, with Mexico, Canada, and the United States sharing the duties. It will also be the first time that 48 teams will take part in the finals rather than the 32 seen since 1998.
However, in 2030 and beyond, things could change even further if FIFA’s new proposals are approved.
What Are FIFA’s Proposals to Change the World Cup?
In May 2021, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation made a formal request to FIFA to examine the possibility of staging the World Cup for both men and women every two years. They asked the international governing body to conduct a feasibility study to understand the impact that playing both tournaments every two years would have on the sport. This wasn’t the first time that the idea has been suggested. Former FIFA President, Sepp Blatter also made the suggestion over twenty years ago, while Alejandro Dominguez, the president of CONMEBOL, put it back on the agenda in 2018.
However, Saudi Arabia’s request is the first time that the idea has been taken any further than some informal discussions as FIFA actioned the feasibility study. In September 2021, the organisation released some proposals with Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s Head of Global Development getting behind the idea.
Who Would Benefit From a Biennial World Cup?
The most obvious party to benefit from twice as many World Cups would be FIFA. According to CNBC, the international governing body for football made around $6 billion from the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Even if it’s unable to make quite as much from World Cups that run every two years as it does at current, it’s still going to earn significantly more. Teams and their players will also earn more as they receive fees for appearing and prize money in recognition of their performance on the pitch.
Sponsors will likely have to pay more to be featured twice as often, but in return, will receive increased exposure to the roughly one billion people that watch the World Cup.
Wenger, who has been speaking at length with football journalists since the proposals were published, has also claimed that smaller countries will benefit from a more frequent World Cup because they’ll have twice as many opportunities to take part.
What Do Critics Say?
Critics of the idea would argue that Wenger’s suggestion is flawed, given that smaller countries already face an uphill struggle when trying to beat nations like Germany, Brazil, and Italy. Instead, a more frequent World Cup is more likely to just mean the most successful footballing nations win more trophies.
Another big concern is that it will place even more pressure of players who are already stretched to the limit with ever-increasing levels of fixture congestion. UEFA added its Europa Conference League in 2021/22, while FIFA still plans to host an expanded Club World Cup in China.
Many club managers, especially Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp, are already concerned about the welfare of their players and the negative effect that playing in too many games has on their performance, so more international tournaments are only going to make that worse.
Some critics have also argued that increasing the frequency of the men’s World Cup will make it more difficult to raise the profile of the women’s game. While the current proposals put forward by FIFA would also increase the frequency of the women’s World Cup, the increased focus on the men’s tournaments will likely come at the detriment to the women’s game.
UEFA has been one of the most vocal parties to come out against the plans, weighing in on several matters including the fact that under the outlined proposal women’s football would be “overshadowed by the proximity of top men’s events” and that twice as many World Cups would result in a loss of prestige for the competition.
It’s not yet clear whether these plans will become a reality, but they are certainly controversial and will lead to many more discussions in the coming months.