Gianni Infantino, the ninth President of FIFA, has found himself increasingly in the news of late, which we’ve come to learn is never, ever a good sign when it comes to FIFA presidents. The 51-year-old’s latest fixation is a biennial World Cup that’s been panned by everyone with a genuine love for the game, so it’s only a matter of time before the plan becomes reality.
“The prestige of an event depends on its quality, not its frequency,” Infantino waxed philosophically on Tuesday. “You have the Super Bowl every year, Wimbledon or the Champions League every year, and everyone is excited and waiting for it.”
Yes, dumbing the globe’s greatest event down to the level of a game in which people are more excited by the commercials, halftime show and eating a pound of buffalo chicken dip. That’s His Excellency’s masterplan.
But one thing you can’t fault Infantino on is his ability to deliver. When running for presidency back in 2016, one of Infantino’s biggest platforms was the expansion of the World Cup to 40 nations. He over-delivered on that one with the 2026 World Cup set to feature 48 nations.
He’s now being criticized by the European Club Association (ECA), which represents 247 clubs, for attempting to railroad the biennial World Cup plan into action while ignoring legal obligations and engaging in a ridiculous PR campaign.
“Aside from the notable lack of genuine (or indeed any) consultation, and as many stakeholders have pointed out in recent days, FIFA’s proposals would lead to a direct and destructive impact on the club game, both domestically and internationally,” the ECA said. “In addition, the proposals would put players’ health and wellbeing at risk. They would dilute the value and meaning of club and country competitions.”
However, the comfort of the FIFA bubble is seemingly impenetrable, so we’re left with one question: When is the next FIFA president election?
After defeating Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa in 2016, Infantino ran unopposed and was re-elected in 2019. That represented the start of a new four-year term running until 2023.
Back in 2016, FIFA passed a reform that limited presidents to three terms of four years (the disgraced Sepp Blatter served five terms). With a life that’s centered on jet-setting around the world on an annual salary of $3.2 million, it’s impossible to think that Infantino won’t run again in 2023.
Five federations need to endorse an opponent — which obviously didn’t happen in 2019 — but with UEFA and CONMEBOL standing in opposition to the biennial World Cup, that won’t be the case in 2023 at the 73rd FIFA Congress.
Before then, we’ll have the 72nd FIFA Congress in 2022. That’s when we’ll likely have the vote on the biennial World Cup with FIFA needing more than 50 percent of votes from the 211 member countries to make it happen.