The World Cup could become a biennial event if radical restructuring proposals for international football prepared for top European clubs are adopted.
The proposal is part of a presentation, commissioned by the G-14 grouping of wealthy European clubs, by Hypercube, a Dutch consultancy.
Labelled ?Grand Slam World?, the proposal to double the frequency of World Cups, currently held every four years, is the most radical of four options outlined in the 36-page presentation.
Option C ? ?Grand Slam Euro? ? would see continental tournaments, such as the European championship, contested every four years by European national teams, double in frequency, and a possible World Cup for clubs once every four years.
Both ?scenarios?, as well as a third option under which weaker countries would have to pre-qualify for continental championships, would also permit expansion of the European Champions League. This is contested each year by the top European clubs and habitually dominated by the 18 members of G-14. These include Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus and Bayern Munich, but not Chelsea, probably the richest club of all.
The biggest envisaged expansion of the Champions League would see 48 clubs playing 269 matches, compared with 32 clubs playing 125 matches under present arrangements. The presentation appears to suggest that such a move could increase Champions League revenues by up to ?600m ($775m) a year.
This growth would be accommodated under both ?Grand Slam? proposals by the abolition of qualifying matches for the World Cup and the various continental championships.
In Europe, national teams would be split into three divisions, with the top 16 competing for the European championship. The four worst performers from this top tier would be relegated to the second division for the next championship two years later, with the four best second-tier teams correspondingly promoted to the elite grouping.
Europe?s representatives in the World Cup would be the 12 best performers in the European championship. The presentation implies that this reorganisation could be in place by 2009, and that therefore the first biennial World Cup could come in 2012.
The G-14 emphasised that Hypercube?s proposals did not constitute G-14 policy. While the structure of the international calendar ?could be improved to the benefit of federations, clubs and players?, it had ?no set view? on the best solution.
The proposals are certain, nonetheless, to trigger widespread debate ahead of the start of the 2006 World Cup in Germany on Friday.
Pieter Nieuwenhuis, a Hypercube consultant, said it was ?early in the process?. Hypercube wanted ?in time to invite the international football federations to chair a discussion process on restructuring international football?.
Recent months have brought an intensification of the battle for control of the international game between the increasingly influential clubs, whose muscle has grown in line with their revenues, and the sport?s main governing bodies, Fifa and Uefa.
Fifa, football?s world governing body, had no comment, while Uefa, the European body, said the proposals were ?a direct assault on national teams?.
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