The president of Fifa, Gianni Infantino, has signalled he is willing to step away from the divisive plan to launch a men’s World Cup every two years.
Speaking after a meeting of the Fifa Council in Zurich, Infantino said he would convene a summit for international federations on 20 December at which plans for reform of the football calendar would be discussed. But he did not commit to holding a vote on any proposals and said any changes would only be made if they were “beneficial for everybody”.
“The discussions around our World Cups have provoked some strong reactions,” Infantino said. “I have heard some critical comments I have heard many enthusiastic comments as well. The discussion is very different in different parts of the world. My objective is to try to bring everyone together, and we must come together.
“What I have said from the beginning is that we are going to change things only if we are completely convinced that it will be beneficial for everybody. For everybody. If it is beneficial for everybody, I cannot see why people would not agree to it.”
The idea of a biennial men’s World Cup first became public this year, when the Saudi Arabian Football Association asked Fifa to conduct a feasibility study, approved by a substantial majority of its 211 members. Plans quickly gathered pace and by last month Fifa’s head of global football development, Arsène Wenger, was presenting a fully fledged plan to stakeholders.
A vote to pass the measures was mooted for December, only to be met with widespread resistance. The governing body of European football, Uefa, has been vocally opposed to a biennial World Cup, with criticism coming also from the International Olympic Committee and one of Fifa’s chief sponsors, Adidas.
By choosing not to announce an emergency Fifa congress, but rather a summit, Infantino appears to have ruled out the possibility of an early vote and he admitted any changes could now be a “staged process”.
“I am confident that on 20 December we can present a common solution,” Infantino said. “How it will look like … for me everything is open … Maybe there is a way we have not yet found but speaking together we can find. So any idea, any proposal is most welcome.”
Infantino has been reported as saying he would look into altering the biennial plans so that teams which entered the first competition would not compete in the second. It is also understood that proposals for a ‘global Nations League’ based on the current Uefa competition are being considered.
The United Arab Emirates will host this season’s Club World Cup in early 2022, Infantino said, with the dates to be confirmed. Chelsea are due to be among the participants.