Fifa is to explore the possibility of staging the men’s and women’s World Cups every two years after it was raised at the governing body’s annual congress on Friday.
Although a study does not guarantee the changes will be implemented, it will be seen by many as the latest action in a global struggle for control over the football calendar and likely to have a severe impact on regional tournaments such as the European Championship.
Speaking at the congress, the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, said: “We have to go into these studies with an open mind but we are not going to take decisions which will jeopardise what we are [already] doing. We know about the value of the World Cup, believe me.
“I would like to put this discussion in a much broader context, that of the international match calendar. Are we really convinced that playing qualifying games [across the year] is the right way when we are saying that fans want more meaningful games? All these points have to be considered. But we will put the sporting element as the top priority, not the commercial element.”
No date has been set for the completion of the study.
Infantino also addressed the issue of the ESL and suggestions, articulated most bluntly by the head of La Liga, Javier Tebas, that he was ‘behind’ the plot.
“We should look at the facts and not rumours or corridor gossip, especially not coming from certain parts,” Infantino said. “I know many clubs, I speak with clubs for many years and when speaking with European clubs the Super league topic always is a topic for discussion; everyone in football knows that. Let’s not play games here.
“At Fifa it is my responsibility to meet and discuss with football stakeholders. Everyone, big, medium, small. It doesn’t mean in any way that Fifa was behind, was colluding, was plotting on any Super League project.”
The European governing body Uefa has announced it is to launch a “Convention on the Future of European Football”. Following the brief crisis in the game caused by the breakaway ESL, Uefa has pledged to call together stakeholders – from club owners to players, fans and agents – to discuss better governance for the game.
The convention will examine four main aspects of possible reform: financial sustainability; competitiveness and solidarity; good governance; and the development of women’s football.
Similar rhetoric formed a substantial part of Infantino’s address to Fifa’s 71st Congress, where other ideas mentioned included the possibility of salary caps and a cap on transfer fees.