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FIFA plans for biennial World Cup rejected by European Leagues

European Leagues managing director Jacco Swart said the proposals created a "severe shift" in the balance between club and national team football in sporting terms and in economic value; representatives of the leagues expressed their views directly to Arsene Wenger in a call on Thursday

World Cup trophy (AP)
Image: FIFA's plans for a new international match calendar have included a biennial World Cup

FIFA's proposals to reshape the international calendar have all been firmly rejected by European Leagues, which includes the Premier League, EFL and SPFL among its members.

A consultation on men's national team football led by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, now FIFA's chief of global football development, is proposing a major international tournament every June, longer but fewer in-season international breaks and mandatory player rest periods.

European Leagues managing director Jacco Swart said the proposals created a "severe shift" in the balance between club and national team football in sporting terms and in economic value.

He rejected outright any change in frequency of the World Cup or continental finals like the Euros, and said rest periods should be determined at domestic level.

Swart also said there should be "as limited changes as possible" to the in-season international breaks.

Representatives of the leagues expressed their views directly to Wenger in a call on Thursday, while FIFA has also been consulting with national team coaches this week.

The renewed opposition from European Leagues comes in a week where the prospect of biennial World Cups becoming a reality appeared to wane.

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It had been expected that member associations would vote on the plans at an extraordinary FIFA Congress before the end of the year. FIFA has instead called a global summit for December 20 where it hopes to present a "consensus" on the calendar, but likely without any vote.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino is a key advocate of the biennial World Cup idea
Image: FIFA president Gianni Infantino is a key advocate of the biennial World Cup idea

Reaching a consensus in two months seems ambitious, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino describing himself as a referee in the middle of a "riot" in a press conference on Wednesday and calling on everyone involved to be "calm and rational".

Infantino admitted "everything is open" in terms of what that consensus position might look like.

The PA news agency understands a meeting between UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, European Club Association chair Nasser Al Khelaifi and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach was held on Friday.

Their organisations have all expressed concern over FIFA's plans.

'CL qualification plans must be completely dismissed'

European Leagues has called for the 'complete dismissal' of plans to grant two clubs qualification for the new-look Champions League based on historic performance.

European football's governing body UEFA rubber-stamped major changes to the format of the Champions League from the 2024-25 season onwards on April 19, including a new 36-team league replacing the existing eight groups of four.

The announcement of the new format, which was completely overshadowed by the formation of a European Super League hours earlier, also reserved two qualification spots for clubs which had missed out on the Champions League by the conventional route but who had the best co-efficient score.

European Leagues members, including the Premier League, are concerned at the prospect of clubs leapfrogging sides above them in the domestic league table as a result.

Champions League ball (AP)
Image: UEFA announced changes to the Champions League format in April

European Leagues also remains concerned over the number of extra matches - 100 in total.

It said in a statement on Friday following its General Assembly in Milan: "Sporting merits (from the latest season) are the deciding factor in winning or losing matches and competitions, and thus in participating (or not) in domestic and international competitions. Earn it on the pitch.

"The co-efficient as a tool for qualification or distribution (of revenue) for a future UEFA club competition must be completely dismissed."

European Leagues managing director Jacco Swart told reporters UEFA had promised a "second stage in the process" next spring where he hoped the topics his organisation had issues with would be addressed.

European Leagues board member Claus Thomsen also warned about the threat of a Super League coming in another form, possibly an expanded Club World Cup.

Cesar Azpilicueta lifts the Champions League trophy
Image: Chelsea are the holders of the Champions League

"The Super League is of course not something that's on the table tomorrow, but it is a trend that everyone should be very aware of, and it will come, and it can come, in other forms and become a de facto Super League.

"The Club World Cup, if it expanded widely, could become a de facto world Super League.

"We need to take care that football is based on domestic competitions, sporting merits, and that we have an exciting competitive balance in all our domestic competitions because that's what drives us as a culture in Europe and not just commercial enterprise."

The inaugural version of an expanded Club World Cup had been set to be played in China earlier this year, but was indefinitely suspended to enable the rescheduling of Euro 2020 and the Copa America.

FIFA's chief of global football development said the possibility of staging the competition would be looked at again once issues surrounding the international match calendar had been resolved.

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