Global governing body wants to double frequency of World Cup; teams fear players would be off roster for too long

European soccer teams joined forces on Friday to rebuke the sport’s world governing body, FIFA, for trying to railroad through plans to hold the World Cup every two years, instead of every four, warning the move would damage the sport, the Associated Press reports.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has infuriated the European Club Association, which is accusing the governing body of being in breach of legal obligations in its rush to radically overhaul the sport and gain more control.

FIFA has been pushing internal interviews to media with retired players and former managers as it rushes to sweep up support from national associations for the plan to double the frequency of men’s World Cups from every four years to two, while making the women’s game appear to be an afterthought.

Europe’s soccer organization, UEFA, has already expressed its concerns about FIFA’s conduct and that has been echoed by the ECA, which represents 234 clubs.

The ECA said it would back a more balanced approach to club and international soccer by reducing the five windows typically in the year for players to be released for national team games to reduce the burden on players. It is the lack of apparent engagement by FIFA on the required new international match calendar (IMC) from 2024 that is troubling the clubs.

“ECA has therefore followed with grave concern and alarm FIFA’s launch of active PR campaigns and much pretense,” the club body said in a statement to The Associated Press, “apparently seeking to railroad through reforms to the IMC, particularly the introduction of a biennial World Cup.”

All 211 member federations of FIFA have been invited to online talks on Thursday on the new IMC.

The plans surfaced again in May when Saudi Arabia’s federation nominally proposed at the congress in May for FIFA to explore biennial World Cups. The Saudis have emerged as one of the closest allies of Infantino, who has made trips this year to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It is former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who has been deployed to sell the case for World Cups every two years in his role as FIFA chief of global soccer development. He gave presentations to the media before bodies such as UEFA on his vision for the match calendar after 2024 which requires the approval of the ECA so clubs release players for tournaments.

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