As the debate over a biennial World Cup rages on between FIFA, its confederations, clubs, politicians, and fan groups, the players themselves have finally had their say.
- 75 per cent of male footballers want to keep the World Cup every four years
- The greatest opposition to FIFA’s biennial proposal came from Europe and Asia, while the Americas and Africa were less opposed
- Women players were not surveyed
In a survey conducted by the global players’ union FIFPro, 75 per cent of male footballers want the men’s tournament to stay at its current four-year cycle instead of moving to the proposed two.
It’s one of the largest surveys of players conducted on the issue so far, compiling the responses of over 1,000 current professional footballers from six different continents and more than 70 nationalities.
The strongest opposition came from players in Europe and Asia, with 77 per cent of those surveyed preferring a four-year World Cup.
Sixty-three per cent of players from the Americas preferred its current format, while 49 per cent of players from Africa wanted to keep the tournament as it was, with the remaining players split between a two- and three-year cycle.
The question was asked as part of a larger study into player workloads and the football calendar as FIFPro continues to research issues of overloading in the men’s game, most recently explored in their 2019 report titled “At The Limit”.
That report found that the game’s top players — those most likely to play in World Cups — are already being drained by an overwhelming number of matches while many of their colleagues play too few due to imbalances in domestic and international calendars.
FIFPro has repeatedly expressed concerns that international-level players are at greater risk of injury and burn-out from over-playing.
Another key finding of this week’s survey was that 81 per cent of male players rank either their domestic league or the World Cup (in its current four-year cycle) as their favourite competitions.
“The player survey shows most footballers around the world have a clear preference to play the World Cup every four years,” FIFPro general-secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffman said.
“At the same time, the results demonstrate the importance of domestic competitions to players. These leagues are the bedrock of our game and we have to do more to strengthen them both for the sake of players and the overall stability of professional football.
“Another key finding from players is that only 21 per cent of them believe that their voice is respected and that their well-being is adequately considered in the context of international football governance.
“Therefore, this survey underlines the need for more collective bargaining frameworks in our industry, especially at the international level.”
FIFPro’s next edition of their Player Workload Monitoring Report in men’s football will be released in the next few weeks, following on from the publication of their inaugural women’s workload report in early February.
Women footballers were not surveyed as part of the biennial World Cup study. However, speaking on The Far Post podcastFIFPro’s director of global policy and strategic relations, Sarah Gregorius, said a separate discussion was needed in the women’s game given the vast differences in competition availability, match minutes, and remuneration for women footballers compared with their male colleagues.
“National team football plays a different role in the women’s industry, so you need to acknowledge that,” she said.
“A lot of employment stability has come from national team football as well, and that’s really critical to understand, too: it’s not just the amount of games that you’re playing, it’s the role that national team football has played in piecing together an overall remuneration or payment structure that actually allows players to be professional.
“I think that’s why the discussion on a biennial World Cup on the women’s side of things is a lot more interesting, but it’s difficult for FIFPro to really take a position either side because of the way that FIFA has structured the proposals: they contain a whole lot more than just a biennial World Cup.
“On the men’s side, it’s quite a binary conversation — do we have it or do we not have it — whereas on the women’s side, it’s a whole package of proposals and the biennial World Cup is just one part of that.
“National team football […] is a huge catalyst for all these other areas of development in women’s football, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that [a biennial World Cup] is the answer.”