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FIFA president Gianni Infantino urges compromise over biennial World Cup debate

FIFA 2018 World Cup Draw – The Kremlin
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

FIFA president Gianni Infantino says all sides must be “ready to compromise” in the heated debate over football’s calendar and biennial World Cups.

World football’s governing body has fixed a virtual meeting of its 211 member associations for December 20 where it hopes to present them with what Infantino described as “a common solution” for men’s and women’s football.

“What this will look like – everything is open,” he said at a press conference following a meeting of the FIFA Council, where he struck a noticeably neutral tone.

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“It’s not my proposal or my decision. I have to facilitate the dialogue, I have to bring people together.

“It’s a bit like (being) a referee when there is a riot going on. My job is to be a moderating force. We have different camps, some are absolutely for this reform, others are absolutely against it, but what is important is that everybody is entitled to their opinion and to voicing it.

“I’m convinced that if we are all ready to work for the good of football we will also be ready to compromise to a certain extent. That means that we all have to move in the direction of solidarity with global football.”

European confederation UEFA, along with European Leagues and the European Club Association, have been among the most vociferous critics of FIFA’s plans. UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has said his organisation will oppose the plans “until common sense prevails and they are dropped”.

Infantino was asked whether FIFA would press ahead even in the face of a boycott from Europe, and said: “What I can assure you is that we will go ahead only if everyone is better off.

Aleksander Ceferin

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is against proposals to play the World Cup every two years (John Walton/PA)

“I believe that we can come up with something that makes sense and something everyone can be happy (with). Trying to find the bridge between all these different positions, is our challenge, but it’s also our ambition.”

Infantino said it was vital that any consensus provided meaningful competition even for those countries who did not qualify for the World Cup, possibly hinting at a global Nations League or ‘B’ World Cup as a compromise solution.

“Even with 48 teams, you still have less than 25 per cent of the FIFA member associations who participate in the World Cup,” he said.

“This means more than 75 per cent of the members of FIFA are not participating in the World Cup, and we need to organise football for all of them.

“So it is a very important element how the qualification will be structured because that’s where all FIFA members participate.

Mexico celebrate a goal against Brazil at the London Olympics

There are no plans for a football boycott of the Olympics (Adam Davy/PA)

“The qualification systems will be part of the discussions with the confederations and associations, and part of the overall solution we have on the table.”

The International Olympic Committee said on Saturday it shared the concerns that had been raised around FIFA’s calendar plans, which would mean a World Cup being played in the same summer as an Olympic Games from 2028.

However, Infantino rejected any suggestion of football not being part of the Olympics in the future.

“We’re not discussing or threatening to pull out of the Olympics,” he said.

“On the contrary, I think that football is a proud part of the Olympic Movement.”