Massive hit from biennial World Cup

Projected €8b a season impact on domestic, continental leagues if proposal goes ahead

BARCELONA • A Fifa proposal for a World Cup every two years and changes to the Club World Cup could cost the big domestic football leagues and Uefa around €8 billion (S$12.3 billion) per season in lost TV rights and match-day and commercial agreements, according to a report commissioned by the leagues.

More frequent international competitions, as well as additional international club games, could lead to major changes in the national leagues, including a reduction in the number of teams competing in them, a switch from weekend to weekday games and fewer domestic games, the report said.

Compiled by consultancies KPMG and FTI Consulting's Delta Partners, it predicted that in addition to cutting club revenue, such a move would hit viewer interest in games. It would also reduce advertisers' interest in domestic football and put strains on players, leading to poorer play, it said.

Gianni Infantino, president of football's world governing body, said last month that Fifa was discussing holding the World Cup every two years and has promised its own feasibility study.

However, the idea has run into opposition from Uefa, which runs the lucrative Champions League, and from key national leagues such as Italy's Serie A, Spain's La Liga and England's Premier League.

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has argued a more frequent World Cup would dilute its value and harm other competitions. He has threatened a European boycott of an additional World Cup.

The report calculated the 40 biggest domestic leagues around the world and Uefa club competitions like the Champions League stand to lose as much as €5 billion per season in audiovisual deals alone - more than a third of what the leagues make in TV rights today.

The study estimates that the leagues would lose more than €1 billion per year in visual rights owing to a decrease in the number of matches, €1.75 billion because of a shortened calendar and another €901 million for the changes in the schedule, with weekend games transferred to midweek.

The total revenue in audiovisual rights generated by leagues would drop from more than €14 billion to about €9 billion, the study predicts.

Enders Analysis senior analyst Francois Godard said holding a biennial World Cup would be very risky, explaining: "My worry is that at some point demand collapses. The risk of a sudden dramatic drop is huge if you weaken the main product (the national leagues).

"If you change to this new model with a World Cup every two years and games have to be moved to midweek and you have a shorter overall season and some players might not be available at some point, you weaken your core product."

The report also said commercial losses would be up to €2.16 billion per season, a drop of about 25 per cent, and the negative impact on match-day revenues would cost the clubs €1.2 billion, again a drop of about 25 per cent.

It took in various scenarios and projected that starting from the 2024-25 season, leagues would be forced to be cut to 18 teams and to finish their seasons in early May to fit Fifa's plans. It was not clear how many matches might be dropped.

The report will be presented at the World Leagues Forum's annual meeting next week.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'Massive hit from biennial World Cup'. Subscribe