Olympics chiefs demand more talks with FIFA over biennial World Cup

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The International Olympic Committee wants to have more discussions over controversial plans by the world football body FIFA to hold the World Cup every two years instead of every four, it said on Saturday.

FIFA’s proposals are set to be voted on in December by the 211 member associations of global soccer’s governing body, with president Gianni Infantino, also an IOC member, travelling the world to rally support for the plan, which has been fronted by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

But the plan has met with fierce criticism from a number of continental and national federations, players’ groups as well as fans.

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European football body UEFA said there were numerous concerns about the impact of such a switch including the ‘dilution’ of the World Cup’s value, risks of players being over-worked and women’s football suffering from annual men’s tournaments.

‘A number of international federations of other sports, national football federations, clubs, players, player associations and coaches have expressed strong reservations and concerns regarding the plans to generate more revenue for FIFA,’ the IOC’s Executive Board said in a statement.

It said these concerns related to the impact a World Cup every two years could have on other sports, players’ welfare and an increase of men’s events impacting gender equality.

‘The IOC shares these concerns and supports the calls of stakeholders of football, international sports federations and major event organisers for a wider consultation, including with athletes’ representatives, which has obviously not taken place.’

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European and South American clubs, leagues and confederations are confident they can stop the plan, regardless of the outcome of a vote, multiple sources have told Reuters, raising the prospect of a damaging split in the international game.

UEFA has threatened to boycott an additional World Cup, while South American body CONMEBOL is also opposed to the plans.

Despite the many objections being made, Wenger believes that football is warming to a biennial World Cup, and demanded his detractors to offer a more agreeable alternative.

‘I consulted everyone and I asked them two questions. 1. Do you want things to continue as they are? 100% said no. 2. Do you have ideas to reorganise the international calendar? I am open to all ideas,’ he told L’Equipe via GetFrenchFootballNews.   

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‘Between 80% to 90% of people like the idea of reorganising qualification rounds, to shorten them, and to make space for an international competition. 

‘A World Cup every two years, there was more reticence towards it because there is something emotional in it. We are all in this routine and cycle of a World Cup every 4 years which seems natural. But when you look at history, it is not that natural. 

‘I am open to all suggestions and all criticisms. They are welcome for me. This is not a personal fight for me. The only thing that I ask is that those who are criticising the project, that they give me something better. But don’t try to denigrate my credibility. I would prefer that people criticise the project and tell me why.’

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