FIFA has softened its tone toward the plan of staging a World Cup every two years after receiving widespread condemnation from sports confederations, clubs, players and coaches.
“The debate has been and will probably continue to be heated,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino told a press conference on Wednesday after speaking to European football leaders in a private conference call.
“I have heard some critical comments and I have heard many enthusiastic comments as well. The discussion is very different in different parts of the world. My objective is to try to bring everyone together, and we must come together,” he said.
Infantino suggested that he would consider dropping the plan if common ground could not be found. “What I have said from the beginning is that we are going to change things only if we are completely convinced that it will be beneficial for everybody,” he said. “If it is beneficial for everybody, I cannot see why people would not agree to it.
“There is a chance to come to a global consensus. That is my objective. I am not here to divide. It is not always easy to be president of FIFA, especially in this context, where everyone has the chance to speak.
“I understand it is difficult to accept when you suggest changes to something that has been the same way for 100 years. I am just asking people to be calm and rational about it, and I hope we can present a joint proposal on December 20.”
Infantino’s latest comments come as UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin declared earlier that European nations may look to withdraw from FIFA’s governance and go it alone, unless they abandon their plans for a biennial World Cup.
“I don’t think it would be wise to go for a vote on a matter like that,” Ceferin was quoted as saying by Sky Sports. “Not just because there will be severe consequences we will have to take but also because the stakeholders like clubs and leagues don’t have a vote, and this idea is detrimental to their existence.”
UEFA has already heard from more than a dozen federations contemplating informing FIFA of their intention to withdraw their membership of the global governing body as a last resort in the fight to prevent a biennial World Cup.
Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach made it clear that it’s important to have an open forum to discuss FIFA’s proposals. “The consequences or potential consequences are becoming clearer day by day thanks to the discussion within FIFA and in particular through the contributions of continental associations,” he said.