Opposition to a 2-year FIFA World Cup is strong, but how much would it affect viewership?

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
September 10, 2021, 12:17 PM UTC

Opposition to a biennial FIFA World Cup tournament is strong, according to a YouGov Direct poll of football fans in the United Kingdom, but a plurality says such a change won’t change whether they’ll tune in. 

Football’s global governing body has laid out a plan to close the gap between tournaments from its current four-year cycle and the proposal will go to a vote later this year. Yet reaction to the latest plan was swift. In a recent interview with The Times, UEFA’s president, Aleksander Ceferin, said such a plan would “kill football”, dilute the value of the tournament, and create a ripple of scheduling headaches across the professional game.  While such a change is not a new prospect (the idea has been floating for decades), this latest push is a result of most FIFA members voting to conduct a feasibility study. 

But data collected today reveals that nearly two-thirds of football fans surveyed by YouGov Direct say they oppose the idea of a two-year tournament, while just 21% voice support. But as is the case with so many major changes to football, younger fans are more likely to be open to the idea, with more than a quarter (27%) of fans aged 18-24 in favour of a more frequent tournament. While most in this demographic still oppose the idea, this data lends some credence to the argument that, for some, the four-year model is outdated in a world where content consumption is at an all-time high. 

All this wouldn’t necessarily translate into a drop in viewership, which is important to highlight as the tournament is the most important money-maker for FIFA - and its members. A plurality, 44%, of football fans who normally tune in to watch the tournament say they would be neither more nor less likely to tune in to watch the matches if the event were more frequent. Yet roughly two in five (39%) say they are somewhat or much less likely to tune in if such a change were implemented, while just 15% told us that they would be more likely to watch.  

The international calendar is set until 2026, so any changes that are eventually agreed are unlikely to take place before 2028. 

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Methodology: YouGov polled 1,000 UK adults online on September 9, 2021 between 5:02 p.m. and 6:04 p.m. BST. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, region, and social grade. The margin of error is 3.1% for the overall sample. Learn more about YouGov Direct.