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Fifa’s biennial World Cup plans condemned as threat to game’s jewel | World Cup

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Two of the most senior figures in European football have attacked Fifa’s plans to reform the international calendar and implement a biennial World Cup, warning they risk diluting the game’s “jewel” and will put players’ health at risk.

Speaking at a meeting of the European Club Association in Geneva, Uefa’s president, Aleksander Ceferin, told representatives of more than 100 clubs: “You have probably heard that Fifa is conducting a feasibility study about the World Cup every two years. Well, we think that the jewel of the World Cup has value precisely because of its rarity. Holding it every two years will lead to less legitimacy, and it will unfortunately dilute the World Cup itself.

“Our players don’t need to see more of their summers spent at tournaments rather than devoted to relaxation and recuperation,” he added.

That message was reinforced by the ECA president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, chief executive of Paris Saint-Germain, who issued a veiled attack on Fifa as he warned that the reform of the international match calendar needed “honest engagement, not unilateral and self-interested decisions”.

“Over-scheduled and disrupted matches put the players’ health and wellbeing at risk – and the clubs bear all the risk,” he added. “International competition cannot suffocate fans’ and players’ connections to clubs, without which international competition wouldn’t exist.”

On Friday Arsène Wenger, Fifa’s chief of global football development, outlined proposals that could lead to a World Cup or European Championship being staged every summer. He also hinted that qualifiers could be held throughout the preceding October, rather than over an 18-month period, and said he hoped everything would be decided by December.

However, Uefa and most clubs are firmly against the proposals, with Ceferin also criticising Fifa for its lack of consultation.

England’s manager, Gareth Southgate, confirmed he had met Wenger to discuss a biennial World Cup – but warned that football could not keep adding to the players’ workload.

“I’m not massively pro or negative to the concept, but I think it needs a lot more thought,” he said. “As a traditionalist it feels you could lose some of the allure of the World Cup because the scarcity of it makes it more important. But I also get it that, if you are a player who has an injury for the World Cup, you might get only one opportunity every eight years, and that is really tough.

“Things like The Hundred in cricket have been an incredible success, so I’m open minded but we can’t keep adding on to the workload of the players.”

Khelaifi also launched a fresh attack on the three remaining Super League rebels, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.

“I will not spend much time talking about the 18th of April, and the ‘not-so-Super League’ because I do not like to focus on fabulists and failures,” he told the first major gathering of clubs since the pandemic.

“While the three rebel clubs waste energies, twist narratives and continue to shout at the sky, the rest of us are moving forward and focusing every energy on building a better future for European football – together as one.”

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The Groucho

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