Wednesday 08 September 2021, 13:00

Global consultation key as FIFA President welcomes calendar debate

  • Opinions of fans worldwide canvassed on football’s future

  • Top footballers and coaches giving calendar insight in Doha

  • President Infantino: “This is a global and exhaustive consultation”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has welcomed prominent former footballers and coaches to a debate on the future of football’s international match calendar in Doha, saying that the status quo is unsustainable for the health of the global game and its players. Stars with an aggregate of over 300 FIFA World Cup matches and a combined total in excess of 3,000 international appearances form a Technical Advisory Group for the men’s game and many are gathered in Qatar to provide their insight and experiences on the challenges presented by the current organisation of the calendar and offer potential alternatives that balance some of the regional inequalities in order to make football truly global. The extensive consultation process – led by FIFA Chief of Global Development Arsène Wenger - delivers on a request made by 166 of FIFA’s member associations at the 71st FIFA Congress to review the existing calendar and propose options for its optimisation. Jill Ellis will be leading a similarly analytical process around women’s football.

“The consultation process starts with the actors – the players and coaches – but football is about everyone who is involved,” said Mr Infantino. “We’re consulting players and clubs from all over the world as well as the 211 member associations of FIFA, because they all have an equal right to be listened to. This is about democracy: the new FIFA is a democratic organisation and we respect all voices because it’s important to hear all of the voices to make a decision and to move ahead.” Football’s incredible global platform is emphasised by the four billion fans around the world watching FIFA World Cup Russia 2018™ and 1.2 billion tuning into the FIFA Women’s World Cup action a year later from France. Those football lovers are also having their say as part of this wide-ranging review. “The fans are the most important part of football,” continued President Infantino. “The soul of football is its beating heart and we are listening to the fans from all over the world, not just certain parts, because football is a global sport. “The current match calendar shows us that we have reached some limits,” he added. “The release period for national team football – exacerbated by the COVID-19 situation, shows us how difficult it is today for players to travel from one country to another, from one continent to another, to start the season typicallin Europe and then to stop and play for the national team and then travel across continents and time zones to play for their club again. It’s not good for the health of the players and it’s not good for the health of the competitions. “This global process is exhaustive, extensive and is a sign of respect from FIFA to the entire world. We hope to finalise it by the end of this year so we can look to the future, as the existing [men’s] international match calendar ends in 2024.”