European clubs have joined forces to rebuke FIFA for trying to railroad through plans for biennial World Cups, warning of a destructive impact on world football.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has infuriated the European Club Association, which is accusing the global governing body of being in breach of legal obligations with its rush to radically overhaul the sport and gain more control.
FIFA has been pushing internal interviews to media with retired players and former managers as it rushes to sweep up support from national associations for the plan to double the frequency of men's World Cups from every four years to two, while making the women's game appear to be an afterthought.
UEFA has already expressed its concerns about FIFA's conduct and that has been echoed by the ECA, which represents 234 clubs.
The ECA said it would back a more balanced approach to club and international football by reducing the five windows typically in the year for players to be released for national team games to reduce the burden on players.
It is the lack of apparent engagement by FIFA on the required new international match calendar (IMC) from 2024 that is troubling the clubs.
"ECA has therefore followed with grave concern and alarm FIFA's launch of active PR campaigns and much pretence," the club body said in a statement, "apparently seeking to railroad through reforms to the IMC, particularly the introduction of a biennial World Cup."
All 211 member federations of FIFA have been invited to online talks on Thursday on the new IMC.
The plans surfaced again in May when Saudi Arabia's federation nominally proposed at the congress for FIFA to explore biennial World Cups. The Saudis have emerged as one of the closest allies of Infantino, who has made trips this year to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
It is former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who has been deployed to sell the case for World Cups every two years in his role as FIFA chief of global football development.
He gave presentations to the media before bodies such as UEFA on his vision for the match calendar after 2024 which requires the approval of the ECA so clubs release players for tournaments.
FIFA was "in light of the range of predisposed decisions and communications ... in direct and unilateral breach of certain legal obligations," the ECA said.
"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 added. "In addition, the proposals would put players' health and wellbeing at risk. They would dilute the value and meaning of club and country competitions."
The ECA pointed to how the plans would "diminish and conflict" with women's football that would lose their right to stage events in a European summer without a men's tournament.
"Any decisions relating to (the international match calendar's) future can only come about with the consent of football clubs," the ECA said, "with player welfare at their heart - and in keeping with legally binding obligations which ordinarily should not need re-stating."
The ECA has, however, backed an expansion of the Champions League in conjunction with UEFA with the group stage due to jump from six to 10 matches per team from 2024.
Australian Associated Press