Gianni Infantino says FIFA will only push ahead with changes to the international football calendar, and plans for a biennial World Cup, “if we are completely convinced it is beneficial for everybody”.
The comments come as UEFA’s president Aleksander Ceferin has threatened “severe consequences” if FIFA follows through with its plans.
Infantino confirmed a special virtual FIFA summit will be held on December 20, open to all 211 member associations, where a formal proposal will be put forward for the future of the men’s and women’s game. He said he expected it to be a “passionate debate”.
No date has been set for a final vote on the matter, though FIFA has confirmed it will hold its next scheduled congress meeting in Doha on March 31 next year.
There has been widespread condemnation of FIFA’s proposals, which have been masterminded by their chief of global football development, Arsene Wenger. One of FIFA’s loudest critics has been Ceferin.
Ceferin has hinted on Wednesday any European nations may look to withdraw from FIFA’s governance and go it alone, unless they change their plans for a World Cup every two years – a move which would also clearly threaten the staging of the UEFA’s flagship European Championships.
“I don’t think it would be wise to go for a vote on a matter like that,” Ceferin says. “Not just because there will be severe consequences we will have to take but also because the stakeholders like clubs and leagues don’t have a vote, and this idea is detrimental to their existence.”
Infantino, in turn, gave an impassioned defence of FIFA’s plans.
“FIFA is not used to a culture of democracy, but debate and discussion about the future of football is important.
“This isn’t about FIFA, or the future of the world cup, it’s about our children. We must look into the future, and make sure that our children, and their children, will continue to fall in love with the game that we all love.”
When asked whether he was prepared to push ahead, even if the powerful football authorities in Europe were set against the proposals, he said: “We will only go ahead if everyone is better off, not only economically but also sportingly.
“There is a chance to come to a global consensus. That is my objective. I am not here to divide. It is not always easy to be president of FIFA, especially in this context, where everyone has the chance to speak.
“I understand it is difficult to accept when you suggest changes to something that has been the same way for 100 years,” Infantino continued. “I am just asking people to be calm and rational about it, and I hope we can present a joint proposal on December 20.
“What will it look like? We will see. We have had some criticism and some positive comments too.
“Like a referee in a match, in the middle of a riot, we have to try to bring reason to the people. Our aim is to make football better.”
The FIFA president also said he sees more World Cups in the future being staged across multiple countries – to both reduce the carbon footprint of the competition (by using countries who neighbour each other) and also to “leave a positive legacy in each country, without leaving a negative commercial impact on one individual country”.