Fifa warned two-year World Cup plan would have ‘profoundly detrimental’ impact on women’s football

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Fifa wants to host the men’s and women’s World Cups every two years from 2024  (AFP via Getty Images)
Fifa wants to host the men’s and women’s World Cups every two years from 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

The English Women’s Super League (WSL) and Championship have both signed a joint statement strongly opposing FIFA’s controversial plans for a new biennial World Cup cycle.

In a letter also signed by UEFA, the European Club Association (ECA) and leagues from around Europe including in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Romania, Sweden and Switzerland, they argued that hosting both the men’s and women’s World Cups every two years would have a “profoundly detrimental” impact on women’s football.

The statement also claimed that a “fast” and “selective” consultation process over the proposals to radically re-alter the football calendar from 2024 onwards had not considered the best interests of the women’s game or the “possible irreversible consequences” that could result.

As a result, the women’s football bodies and leagues have called for FIFA to engage in a “genuine, joint and open forum” to “assess with the required depth and understanding of the specific context and stage of development of the women’s game and its connection to men’s football, all the consequences the proposals will cause”.

The statement, which was issued on Monday afternoon, began: "The proposed plans by FIFA to stage both the men's and women's World Cup tournaments every two years will have profoundly detrimental sporting, economic, societal and many other impacts that will fundamentally alter the course and development of the women's game.

"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 or adequately assessed the possible irreversible consequences such a change might entail."

Former United States coach Jill Ellis is leading a technical advisory group working on proposals for the women's calendar, alongside a similar group overseen by ex-Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looking at the men's game.

Less has been seen of Ellis' proposals, though from Wenger's plans it is clear the Women's World Cup would have to take place in the same summer as a major men's tournament.

The Olympic Games, arguably the second-biggest national team event in women's football, would also clash with a World Cup every time it was staged under FIFA's plan.

It is understood FIFA is considering staging a Women's World Cup in July or August, after a men's tournament in June.

As well as the premier English competitions, the statement was signed by the Danish Kvindeliga, Germany's Frauen-Bundesliga, the Finnish Kansallinen Liiga, Serie A Femmenile of Italy, Holland's Eredivisie Vrouwen, Liga 1 Feminin (Romania), Sweden's Elitfotboll Dam and the Swiss Women's Super League.

Spain's Primera Division and France's D1 Feminine - which have provided the European champions for the last six years - had not signed it.

The statement set out a list of problems the signatories felt the proposals would create, including adding further congestion to an already crowded women's calendar and a lowering of sponsorship investment due to a saturation of the market.

They also felt the additional men's competitions would hamper the visibility of the women's game, and disrupt the evolving fan culture around it.

"Further development of the game we all love can only truly come about when we discuss together, at the same table, and with all those impacted by such a major decision," the statement added.

"It is a delicate equilibrium which must show respect and responsibility across a spectrum of competitions, players, coaches, fans, nations and culture."

FIFA held an associations summit last week and sent out invitations to consult on September 3 and 4 to confederations, the ECA, the World Leagues Forum and world players' union FIFPRO.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said he would like the 211 member associations to vote on calendar proposals by the end of the year.

A feasibility study to look at biennial men's and women's World Cups, proposed by the Saudi Arabian football federation, was approved by an overwhelming majority vote at FIFA Congress in May.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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