European women’s soccer leagues warn against FIFA World Cup plan

Manchester United’s Alessia Russo, Birmingham City’s Veatriki Sarri, and Manchester United’s Ona Batlle (left-right) battle for the ball during the FA Women’s Super League match at St. Andrew’s, Birmingham. (AP)

NYON, Switzerland—Women’s soccer leagues across Europe joined UEFA on Monday in criticizing FIFA plans for biennial men’s and women’s World Cups, claiming both would threaten how the women’s game is developing.

Leagues in England, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden said staging a men’s World Cup every two years will “hamper the visibility and growth” of women’s soccer.

They also suggest a biennial Women’s World Cup—a goal often stated by FIFA at the 2019 tournament in France—could even harm women’s soccer before it is matured in less wealthy soccer nations.

The European statement warned “only those leading nations with strong foundations have the capacity and resource levels to make it viable to compete so regularly.”

That claim contradicts a key argument in FIFA’s push for doubling the number of World Cups it organizes—that it will increase opportunity for nations which rarely qualify in the traditional four-year cycles.

The UEFA-coordinated statement calls for FIFA to run more inclusive talks on changing soccer’s balance of international competitions.

“The fast-paced nature of the (so far) very selective consultation process and all-but agreed proposals have not allowed a careful reflection on what is in the best interests of the future development of women’s football,” the European officials said, warning of “possible irreversible consequences such a change might entail.”

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