A majority of football supporters support the idea of a “more frequent” World Cup, according to an online poll published Thursday by FIFA in the midst of a debate on its biennial World Cup project.
According to the IRIS/YouGov study carried out among 15,000 people “with an interest in football”, 55 percent of respondents want to see the top international competition more often than every four years, says football’s world governing body.
The survey showed that 30 percent would like the World Cup to be held every two years, 11 percent every year and 14 precent every three years, a highly unusual frequency in international sport.
The survey nevertheless reveals strong differences according to the geographical areas and the age of the respondents.
The most favourable towards this increased frequency are the “younger generations in all regions” and “developing markets”, while older football lovers remain attached to the tradition of a four-yearly tournament which has been in place since the first World Cup in 1930.
This finding will be followed by an “expanded” survey of 100,000 people in “more than one hundred countries”.
FIFA’s controversial proposal of a biennial World Cup, first floated in the 1990s, was revived in March by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, now head of football development at FIFA.
The central argument is that a World Cup every two years would create more profits that could be distributed to federations in Africa, Asia and South America, who have a greater reliance on FIFA funds than the wealthy European leagues.
Wenger says the idea would be to have a final phase every summer from 2025-2026, alternating World Cups and continental tournaments like the European Championships and Copa America. Qualifying matches would be grouped together in October, or in October and March.
However, the plan has been rejected by UEFA, the South American Football Confederation, the World Leagues Forum and the powerful European Club Association, all of whom are already struggling with an overloaded schedule.
The FIFPro players’ union denounced Tuesday “the absence of a real dialogue” on the subject, pointing out the “natural physiological limits” of footballers.
Football fans have also voiced their opposition to the proposal.
“It is legitimate for FIFA to do market research, since it has something to sell,” Ronan Evain, coordinator of the Football Supporters Europe network (FSE).
“But if it wants to consult representative organisations, it knows where to find us.”
Any final decision on the proposal would have to be made by a FIFA Congress, which usually takes place in May.