Leeds United among Premier League clubs to unanimously oppose new World Cup proposals

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Premier League clubs have stated their unanimous opposition to FIFA proposals for biennial World Cups and extended international breaks from 2024.

The bosses of the 20 top-flight sides gathered in London on Thursday and the controversial calendar plans drawn up by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger were among the items discussed.

The league has opposed the move on the grounds of player welfare, the fan experience, pre-season preparations and the quality of competition.

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Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “The Premier League is committed to preventing any radical changes to the post-2024 FIFA international match calendar that would adversely affect player welfare and threaten the competitiveness, calendar, structures and traditions of domestic football.

“We are open to reforms and new ideas, but they must enhance the complementary balance between domestic and international football in order to improve the game at all levels.

“This process should also involve meaningful agreements with the leagues that provide the foundations for the game. We will continue to work with supporter groups, players, domestic and international stakeholders to find solutions that are in the best interests of football’s long-term future.”

The Premier League’s opposition to the plans had previously been expressed via European Leagues, which the English top flight is a member of.

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They join UEFA and the European Club Association in condemning FIFA’s plans.

Leeds United's home ground Elland Road ahead of kick-off. Pic: GettyLeeds United's home ground Elland Road ahead of kick-off. Pic: Getty
Leeds United's home ground Elland Road ahead of kick-off. Pic: Getty

Under the proposals for the men’s calendar developed by a technical advisory group under Wenger’s leadership, a major tournament would take place each summer and qualifying matches would be reduced and condensed into one or at most two international breaks, rather than the current five.

FIFA’s decision to play the 2022 Qatar World Cup in the winter has caused a more immediate calendar headache for the Premier League, and on Thursday the league confirmed the changes it necessitated to the 2022-23 season.

The league confirmed the next campaign will start on August 6 and stop after the 16th round of matches on the weekend of November 12 and 13.

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The league would resume on Boxing Day 2022 with the final round of games to be played on May 28, 2023.

Clubs gave the league a mandate to progress with a second round of bidding for television rights in the United States, set to be worth well over £1billion.

The owners’ charter – agreed in principle in the summer and intended to be a legal mechanism to prevent any future attempts to form a breakaway Super League – is understood to be close to being concluded with only fine details left to resolve.

The clubs unanimously agreed they would not wear away shirts in home matches on December 26 and 27 in support of the homelessness charity Shelter because doing so would breach league rules.

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Rule M22.1 of the league’s statutes says the “first priority” is that the outfield players of the home club shall wear their home strip.

League sources said clubs are welcome to support Shelter or any other charity in a host of alternative ways, such as on pitchside advertising boards, big screens or pre-match training tops.