6 March 2020 – FIFA President Gianni Infantino has stressed the need for cooperation in relation to upcoming international match calendar debates and challenged all stakeholders “to face questions that may have been avoided in the past” in his address to the 44th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Amsterdam.

Referring to the recent meeting of The IFAB in Belfast, the FIFA President said: “FIFA vice-president and president of the English FA [Greg Clarke]… praised the spirit of cooperation between everyone and mentioned in this spirit of cooperation the ongoing discussions on the international match calendar. I think that this will be really the topic, the international match calendar that we have to focus on for the future of football…It has to be fine-tuned. It has to be debated. It has to be discussed by all stakeholders.

“We have to ask ourselves many questions that maybe we avoided asking ourselves in the past. ‘How many matches can a player play in a year?’ ‘How many competitions do we have?’ ‘How many competitions should we have?’ ‘What kind of competitions do we need for the future?’ ‘Do we play too much or don’t we play enough, maybe, in some parts of the world?’ And we have to realise that the international match calendar is a global match calendar which has to take into account many issues such as, of course, climate and geography.”

The FIFA President requested that fans also be considered in the process. “In all of this, we need to consider the fans as well,” Mr Infantino said. “The fans are the lifeblood of football… and we have to work for them and offer them what they want to see, and if possible even a little bit more.”

The FIFA President, who recently published his vision, Making Football Truly Global 2020-2023, praised the example set by Europe’s governing body and “visionaries” such as former KNVB president Michael van Praag and the late former UEFA President Lennart Johansson, and stressed his desire to bring their lessons to the world.

“European football and UEFA has been made by many persons,” the FIFA President said. “Since we are here in Amsterdam, I would like to mention Michael van Praag. I remember, Michael, our discussions on many topics, including Video Assistant Referees (VAR), where Michael was saying to me that you will see it will work, and I was saying to him that it will never work. Well, Michael was right and I was wrong, because it did work… and 66 countries will be using it as of later this year.”

“I cannot at this stage of the congress not mention as well our President, Lennart Johansson,” he added. “It is the first congress in many years, decades, that Lennart is not present. He was my first President in UEFA. He was certainly a visionary and he brought European football forward immensely… [including] in women’s football… In the wake of the incredible success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France last year, [we need] to continue developing women’s football all over the world. But not only developing, boosting women’s football and bringing it to the next level… Much more needs to be done and is done by all of us and all of you.”

The FIFA President also referred to ongoing developments of the Laws of the Game, in particular in relation to concussion, the offside rule and VAR, and concluded his address by mentioning that FIFA will provide “new ideas” to help tackle racism and discrimination, where “zero tolerance” must remain in place.