Fifa president Gianni Infantino claims he has a majority backing for his plan to introduce biennial World Cups, with delegates told on Monday an increase in football’s showpiece tournament would generate an extra $4.4 billion in revenue over a four-year cycle.
Fifa has proposed the change in line with a revised international calendar, with all 211 member associations invited to a virtual “global summit” to discuss the controversial plan.
Uefa and Conmebol – the governing bodies for European and South American football, respectively – have opposed the idea, while Caf, which governs African football, has supported it.
On Monday, Fifa presented to delegates a summary of the feasibility study first requested in May by the Saudi Arabia Football Federation. According to the investigation Fifa commissioned by market research firm Nielsen and the Open Economics organisation, revenues from a World Cup every two years – gate receipts, media rights, sponsorship – would increase for a 48-team tournament from an expected $7bn to $11.4bn over a four-year cycle.
The world governing body estimated that national associations would, on average, be allocated around $16m in additional funds during that four-year period. The full 700-page report is set to be published.
"If I was going to a vote tomorrow probably the majority would vote in favour of a World Cup every two years," Infantino told a news conference from Doha after the summit. "But we are looking at the entire calendar.
"We are looking at how we can make football better and we're looking at how many we can bring on board with a new way of organising football in the future.
"We continue the dialogue, we continue the analysis. We hope that we can make progress one way or the other, or some middle way."
Infantino did not confirm when any vote would be held, or whether it would be on the agenda at the Fifa congress scheduled to take place in the Qatari capital on March 31.
There has been staunch opposition in particular from European clubs and the continent’s major leagues, as well as the International Olympic Committee. The latter has voiced concerns regarding clashes in the schedule with other sports and placing “a further massive strain” on athlete welfare.
On Friday, Uefa published a report commissioned from consultancy firm Oliver & Ohlbaum that warned the changes to the international calendar would prompt a fall in revenues for European national federations by between €2.5bn and €3bn over a four-year cycle. Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin has threatened to boycott any additional tournament.
Arsene Wenger, Fifa’s head of Global Football Development, said he hoped the debate would change in the coming weeks. The former Arsenal manager is proposing halving the number of windows for international games outside of tournaments to two per year.
Wenger said: "We face opposition, but what I regret is that 90 per cent of this opposition is emotion and not facts and not analysis. We have to get over this fear because most of the emotions that we face are based on fear.”