World Cup will still be 'magic' if held biennially

JERUSALEM • A biennial World Cup will not dilute the "magic" of the tournament as its frequency would have no bearing on its quality and prestige, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on Tuesday.

Football's world governing body is conducting a feasibility study into the practicalities of staging a World Cup every two years, a move that has been met with fierce criticism from various confederations, clubs, players and fan groups.

"A World Cup with 48 teams (from 2026) has already been decided. Whether it will take place every two years or four years, that is under consultation," Infantino told media in Israel.

"Definitely believe in having more prestigious events, whether the World Cup or anything else... Precisely because it is a magic tournament is perhaps why it should happen more often. The prestige of an event depends on its quality, not its frequency. You have the Super Bowl every year, Wimbledon or the Champions League every year, and everyone is excited for it."

However, the plans were criticised by an unexpected source on Tuesday - the chief executive of one of Fifa's main sponsors, Adidas.

According to The Guardian newspaper, Kasper Rorsted said: "I don't think much of a football World Cup held every two years. There's a European Championship here, there's a Copa America in Latin America. One should also leave space for other things.

"I am a passionate football fan… but it is important that not only football is shown on television but also biathlon, skiing, tennis or handball. If you push just one product heavily, it is not good for any product."

Infantino has also raised the prospect of Israel co-hosting a future World Cup, with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office mentioning the possibility of bidding for the 2030 tournament.

In a statement, Mr Bennett's office said that in his talks with Infantino, "the Fifa president raised the idea that Israel would host the World Cup in 2030, together with other countries in the region, led by the United Arab Emirates".

"You need to have vision, dreams and ambitions. Co-hosting is the future, so why not dreaming and thinking about it... because the World Cup has this unique magic in bringing people together," Infantino said.

The Middle East region is set to host the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, in November and December next year.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2021, with the headline 'World Cup will still be 'magic' if held biennially'. Subscribe