LONDON—Premier League clubs united in their opposition to plans for biennial World Cups when they discussed the Fifa overhaul of the international calendar at a meeting before the weekend.
The 20 teams also all opposed a Fifa proposal to reduce the five windows for international men’s matches to just two in a year.
“The Premier League is committed to preventing any radical changes to the post-2024 Fifa international match calendar that would adversely affect player welfare and threaten the competitiveness, calendar, structures and traditions of domestic football,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said in a statement after declining to be interviewed.
UEFA has already expressed its concerns about the changes to world football being championed by Fifa President Gianni Infantino and Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager who is now chief of global football development at Fifa.
“We are open to reforms and new ideas, but they must enhance the complementary balance between domestic and international football in order to improve the game at all levels,” Masters said.
“This process should also involve meaningful agreements with the leagues that provide the foundations for the game. We will continue to work with supporter groups, players, domestic and international stakeholders to find solutions that are in the best interests of football’s long-term future.”
Infantino has said Fifa organizing a men’s or women’s World Cup every year—rather than retaining quadrennial cycles—is important to attract young fans, give more countries the chance to qualify and provide more competitive games more often.
The next World Cup, in Qatar, will significantly disrupt competitions like the Premier League since it is being played across November and December rather than in the usual June-July slot due to the Gulf nation’s fierce summer heat.
The Premier League confirmed Thursday that next season will begin slightly earlier on the weekend of August 6 and 7, 2022 and the final round before the World Cup will be November 12 and 13.
The tournament begins November 21 and the final is December 18, with the Premier League resuming on December 26 for the traditional Boxing Day fixtures and ending on May 28, 2023.
EURO LEAGUES, FANS LOBBY FOR DOMESTIC SOCCER
TWO Europe-wide fan groups that work with UEFA have teamed with national leagues aiming to lobby more effectively against projects they believe threaten domestic soccer.
Their cooperation deal announced Thursday follows turmoil caused by the club-led Super League project and a fresh Fifa vs. Europe dispute over the global soccer body pushing to stage the World Cup every two years instead of four.
The fan representatives—Football Supporters Europe (FSE) and Supporter Direct Europe—and the 31-nation European Leagues group are arguing for “appropriate involvement” in decision-making and how soccer is run.
“Fans and leagues share common principles and we now want to put them into action in specific projects and activities,” SD Europe chief executive Antonia Hagemann said in a joint statement by the three organizations.
European Leagues managing director Jacco Swart said the move was a “natural step to converge and work together to protect domestic football.”
Though leagues and fans have helped UEFA in opposing the Super League and biennial World Cup proposal, they disagree with some Champions League changes set to take effect in 2024.
Those include UEFA giving two wild-card entries to clubs based on a 10-year record of results in European competitions.
“The parties acknowledge the importance of competitive domestic competitions in full capacity stadiums with home and away fans, with sporting merit as the primary driver for success,” the joint statement said.
Fans and leagues also want UEFA to abolish using a league table of clubs’ historical records to allocate 30 percent of Champions League prize money—worth €600 million ($688 million) this season. It guarantees top-ranked Real Madrid €36.4 million ($41.8 million) while No. 32-ranked Sheriff gets only €1.14 million ($1.3 million) from it. Sheriff beat Madrid 2-1 in September.
UEFA also agreed in April to add four clubs to the Champions League in 2024 and give them 10 guaranteed games instead of six, despite FSE opposition to the extra cost in money and time for fans.
FSE, which is formally recognized by UEFA as “one of its key stakeholders,” has said the extra games were a power grab by wealthy clubs.
In their statement Thursday, the leagues and fans said UEFA and Fifa allowing international competitions to expand too much “will distort the competitive balance of leagues and the health of domestic football.”
The decision-making UEFA executive committee has two seats for club delegates—currently Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser al-Khelaifi and Bayern Munich’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge—and just one for the leagues, who send Javier Tebas of Spain. Fans are not represented.
KENYA GOVERNMENT DISBANDS SOCCER FEDERATION
THE Kenyan soccer federation was disbanded by the government on Thursday just hours before the national team was due to play in a World Cup qualifier.
The move was announced by sports minister Amina Mohamed, who said a preliminary investigation into the soccer federation by her department had shown it was unable to properly account for money given to it by the government.
Mohamed said police and anti-corruption authorities in Kenya should now carry out further investigations and decide if there should be criminal prosecutions.
The decision to remove all elected officials at the federation and replace them with a caretaker committee will not affect Kenya’s international matches, the sports ministry said.
But that may still happen if world body Fifa becomes involved. Fifa does not allow governments to interfere in the running of national federations and Kenya risks being banned from international soccer.
Kenya was due to play Uganda in a World Cup qualifier later Thursday, although Kenya has already been eliminated and cannot qualify for next year’s tournament in Qatar.
Kenya also failed to qualify for the upcoming African Cup of Nations in Cameroon in January and February. AP