Exclusive-Soccer-FIFA vice-president Montagliani offers compromise on World Cup plan


FILE PHOTO: Jul 7, 2017; Harrison, NJ, USA; CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani addresses the media before a Gold Cup game between Canada and French Guiana at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani has floated a possible compromise solution in the row over the proposal for a biennial World Cup which has divided the global governing body.

Canadian Montagliani, who is president of CONCACAF which governs the game in North and Central America and the Caribbean, is a key ally of FIFA president Gianni Infantino and his idea for an alternative tournament is likely to be discussed this month.

Infantino has been locked in a bitter dispute with European confederation UEFA over the proposals to increase the frequency of the World Cup, with top leagues and clubs also opposed to the plans which have been fronted by FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development Arsene Wenger.

Montagliani told Reuters in an interview that an alternative to a biennial World Cup could be a tournament loosely based on the old Confederations Cup, which has not been held since 2017, or a global version of the Nations League format, used by UEFA and CONCACAF.

"The principle of having an event, in between World Cups, is something I am totally for," Montagliani said.

"The question is what is that going to be, how do we look at it, how does that affect other things like qualification processes and tournaments that are already there? That is the process that we need to go through," he added.

The Confederations Cup was held every four years, in advance of the World Cup, and the eight-nation tournament featured each of the winners of the continental championships such as the Euro and Copa America along with the World Cup holders and the host nation.

"We used to have something in between the World Cups, which was the old Confederations Cup. It wasn’t a tournament that everyone was turned on to but for some confederations it was a nice link between your regional competition and an international competition and we lost that," said Montagliani.

"Four or five years ago we had discussions over a 'Global Nations League’ so these discussions are not foreign to the table. They might look different, whether it is a Global Nations League, a Confederations Cup or Arsene’s idea of a biennial World Cup, these are events that occur in between the current World Cup cycles.

"What I would like to see is (analysis of) the fall-out, not so much on the revenue side but what is the impact on the eco-system we currently have. I think our approach is to look at this from a holistic standpoint," he added.

EXISTING TOURNAMENTS

The Canadian said one of the advantages of the Confederations Cup model was that there was no need for a separate qualification process - given teams would earn their places through existing continental tournaments.

FIFA is due to hold a global summit of all national associations to discuss its plans on Dec. 20.

In October, Infantino, after UEFA threatened to boycott an additional World Cup, said he was looking for a consensus over the issue and the broader task of a new international match calendar for the game. The agreement for the current calendar of international tournaments ends in 2024.

"We need to look at sporting and economic merits, then we can have a reasoned discussion about World Cups and perhaps other competitions," Infantino said.

Montagliani has changed CONCACAF's club competition from a group stage format to a straight knockout tournament and said the format for a new tournament should be discussed.

"It could be completely different from what a World Cup would be...a different format that we haven’t thought about that could be exciting for fans," he said.

(Reporting by Simon Evans, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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