Studies Suggest Biennial World Cup Would Provide Economic Boost
Feasibility studies point to strong economic returns from biennial FIFA World Cup™ cycle
FIFA have announced the findings of two independent feasibility studies which have projected there would be a strong upturn in football’s economic situation for FIFA’s 211 member associations (MAs) should the women’s and men’s FIFA World Cups move to a biennial format.
The findings, from Nielsen and OpenEconomics, were presented during the FIFA Global Summit, which took place as an online meeting attended by 207 out of 210 eligible MAs. The summit was staged as the latest step in the future of football consultation process as international match calendars for women’s and men’s football are set to expire in 2023 and 2024 respectively.
“We have been advised by independent experts that a switch to biennial FIFA World Cup would provide a combined additional US$4.4bn in revenue from the first four-year cycle, with these funds being distributed across our 211 member associations,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
“This additional revenue would allow solidarity funding to move from the current level of US$6m per cycle to up to potentially US$25m on average per FIFA member association in the first four-year cycle, with the actual distribution being subject to FIFA’s governance principles.
“Our intention is to help ‘bridge the gap’ between FIFA member associations and to give as many of them a more realistic chance of playing on the global stage,” the FIFA President added.
In addition, the Nielsen research, which focused on financial matters, concluded that should confederations also switch their men’s final tournaments to a biennial cycle, the overall uplift for world football would be in the region of US$6.6bn in the first four-year cycle.
Meanwhile, the OpenEconomics study that centred on macroeconomic perspectives concluded that a move to a biennial cycle for the men’s FIFA World Cup™ would produce a gross domestic product (GDP) gain of more than US$180bn over a 16-year period, while generating two million full-time jobs.
“FIFA’s commitment to the future of football remains resolute, as we want to give every talent a chance, and to create the right environment to deliver on that promise through our competitions,” added FIFA Chief of Global Football Development, Arsène Wenger.
“We want to reorganise the international match calendar, especially to promote and improve football, while respecting all stakeholders – and that begins with the players themselves, by introducing a mandatory rest period.”
However, an independent study conducted by consultancy firm Oliver & Ohlbaum at the request of UEFA, assessed the economic impact that a biennial World Cup and a new International Match Calendar, for both men’s and women’s football, designed in accordance with the project presented by FIFA would have on European national associations.
The findings of the report raised severe concerns over the sustainability of the plan for European associations.
The announced objective of softening the calendar burden for players is at odds with the duplication of final tournaments, which would see every season finish with a World Cup or a confederation championship.
UEFA’s report suggests tournaments of such intensity cannot be repeated every year without increasing mental and physical exhaustion of players, who would find themselves playing even more than one tournament per season, if all qualifications matches were staged in one or two long blocks.
In addition, teams not reaching final tournaments in the proposed scheme would not only play fewer matches in total but lose regular contact with their fan-base due to the long periods of inactivity.
The research projects a deeply negative outlook for European national team football, should the FIFA plan be implemented.
Adding up the losses from centralised revenues (media rights of men’s European Qualifiers and Nations League; distributions from UEFA EURO) and from individual sources such as ticketing and sponsorships, revenues for European national associations might drop between €2.5 and €3bn over a cycle of four years, depending on the number of qualifying windows available (two or just one).
UEFA believes that radical changes should be proposed only if they result in clear and unquestionable benefits for the game and its actors.
FIFA plans further consultations with confederations and MAs in early 2022, with the opportunity to examine the studies in further detail.