FIFA released the results of a survey on Thursday that on the surface appears to bolster the federation’s push to hold the men’s World Cup every two years rather than four.
But while the survey does indicate that 55 percent of fans are open to changing the interval between World Cups, there are some crucial technicalities to bear in mind.
It’s important to note that the survey gave respondents four answer choices on how frequently the World Cup should be held; every year, every two years, every three years, or every four years.
The answer with the highest percentage of preference from respondents was every four years, which accounted for 45 percent of the total. Next was every two years, with 30 percent of respondents choosing that interval. Every three years was the choice for 14 percent of respondents with 11 percent wanting a World Cup annually.
If the answer choices of every year, every two years, and every three years were combined into a single category, then the percentage of respondents who are open to the World Cup being held more often is 55 percent versus the 45 percent of those who wish to see it remain at the current interval.
FIFA’s claim that, “the majority of fans would like to see a more frequent men’s FIFA World Cup; of this majority, the preferred frequency is biennial,” is true, but it’s important to note that a biennial World Cup is still the choice of less than a third of the respondents.
According to FIFA, the results also show “considerable differences between the so-called traditional markets and the developing football markets,” and indicate that, “younger generations in all regions are more open and interested in change than older generations.”
The study was limited to respondents who indicated an interest in both football and the World Cup. Respondents were chosen as part of a random sample, with the only other requirement being that they were 18 years old or older.
Only 23 out of the 211 members of FIFA participated. However, the members chosen for this survey were chosen, “based on football interest and viewership, geographic diversity, and population sizes.” All six continental federations were represented by at least one member as well.
UEFA, the European confederation, and Conmebol, the South American confederation, have both come out strongly against making the World Cup a biennial event. Without them, the World Cup would cease to be the pre-eminent tournament of world football.
The results of the survey found 54 percent of Europeans wanting to keep the World Cup at every four years, much higher than the overall figure of 45 percent.
Among South Americans, 43 percent wanted to maintain the status quo.
FIFA commissioned the survey via IRIS and YouGov, described by the federation as independent industry experts.
FIFA did note that, “an expanded survey, involving over 100,000 people in more than one hundred countries, is currently underway. This survey will be more global in scope, balances elements such as population, geographic diversity, football history and potential, and covers both the frequency of the men and women`s FIFA World Cup, the findings of which will be published in due course.”