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HomeSportsWorld Cup in winter 'should not be a viable option'

World Cup in winter ‘should not be a viable option’

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Argentina won December's World Cup, which took place in the middle of the European club season
Argentina won December’s World Cup, which took place in the middle of the European club season

Holding another winter World Cup is unacceptable without major changes to how the tournament is arranged, world players’ union Fifpro has said.

The union has published a report on how the Qatar World Cup, held in November and December, affected player workload.

Post-tournament recovery time was cut from 37 days to eight to reduce disruption to Europe’s club calendar.

A winter World Cup “should not be a viable option for anybody”, said Fifpro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.

A future World Cup could be staged in December, as Saudi Arabia is considering a bid to be the 2030 host, while Portugal and Spain could also hold a winter tournament.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said after the finals in Qatar that the winter scheduling had led to better matches.

“Playing in November and December has had an impact,” he said. He added that “we have seen it with the quality of the games” when compared with a summer World Cup played “at the end of an exhausting season” for the players.

But Baer-Hoffmann said: “Repeating what we had this time is clearly not acceptable.”

Because the tournament was held in the middle of the European club season, preparation time for Qatar 2022 was also cut from the usual 31 days to seven.

“If you want to pursue a winter World Cup again, you need to get into conversations with the leagues to completely change their schedules to provide appropriate training and recovery time,” Baer-Hoffmann added.

“That would mean a two or two-and-a-half month break from competition. I find it unlikely they would agree to that.”

Poland defender Kamil Glik played for his club side Benevento four days after his country had been eliminated from the World Cup, while Raphael Varane started a Premier League game for Manchester United eight days after losing the final with France.

Varane, 29, has subsequently retired from international football, likening playing at the highest level to a washing machine because “you never stop”.

In their post-tournament survey, Fifpro said most players want at least 14 days preparation time and a recovery period of between 14 and 28 days.

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This could be an issue at the 2026 World Cup, which is set to involve 48 teams and more games given the proposed three-team groups is in the process of being ditched.

Fifa has indicated the additional days will come out of the preparation time.

Temporary concussion substitutes threat

Fifpro has also been dismayed at the decision by international rule-making body Ifab to reject calls for the immediate implementation of a temporary concussion substitutes trial.

The trial had the backing of the Premier League and Major League Soccer but Ifab decided in favour of sticking with the current situation of having permanent concussion substitutes.

Ifab is adamant it is putting the health of players first and that its stance is backed up by medical evidence.

However, Baer-Hoffmann disagrees and has not ruled out the possibility of some leagues ignoring Ifab by bringing in their own regulations.

“I fail to comprehend the logic,” he said. “The defence of the current model, in our experience of over 10 years working on it, departs from reality.

“Of course, it would be better to take any player off if they have a suspected concussion but it just doesn’t happen in practice.

“We remain convinced temporary concussion substitutes are the safer approach and if employers and employees, in this case a league and a union, were to agree to implement those standards, that should supersede other rules.

“If we know more and more what the consequences are and we see viable opportunities, that many experts and doctors support, to do better in terms of protecting players and institutions are refusing to do so, at some point, the level of responsibility comes to a degree that is not appropriate any more.

“We will keep the pressure on. We will talk to the leagues to see what they are prepared to do on the back of this decision but we will not let that one go.”

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