September 24 – Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager now working as FIFA’s head of football development and the leading proponent of a biennial World Cup, has defended his stance by insisting the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
Wenger, whose ideas have been widely criticised, says he is “ready to take that gamble” and that he was not ego driven.
In an interview with BBC podcast The Sports Desk, Wenger said the current schedule offered “no clarity, no simplicity, no modern way to organise a season” and that if things carry on as they are “we hit the wall.”
Critics of a biennial tournament argue it will impact heavily on players’ physical and mental wellbeing but Wenger insists the opposite is the case and that it would in fact be far less burdensome.
“What is absolutely detrimental to the players is repeated travelling and jet-lag. With reducing the qualifying period, I believe that the clubs will benefit, the players would benefit,” he said.
According to a survey commissioned by FIFA, a majority of fans favoured holding a men’s World Cup more frequently than every four years – although tellingly the most popular response across all age groups was to retain the status quo.
Wenger dismissed the notion that he risked devaluing football’s showpiece tournament by doubling its frequency – a charge levelled at both him and FIFA by UEFA and Europe’s clubs.
“The World Cup is such a huge event that I don’t think it will diminish the prestige. You want to be the best in the world and you want to be the best in the world every year. I’m not on an ego trip. I’ve been asked to help to shape the calendar of tomorrow, I consult the whole world.”
“Some people have judged only based on every two years of World Cup and it was more emotional because ‘we’ve all grown up in that cycle’, and I can understand that.
“But many responses who were negative came out because they had not completely seen the whole concept. This concept of course, every two years a World Cup makes only sense if you see the whole proposal and if you regroup the qualifiers.”
“The international match calendar is fixed until 2024. So until then, nothing can change. I’ve been guided by a few ideas to propose a plan to reshape the international match calendar.”
“The first one is to make football better all over the world. The second one is to have a more modern way and more simple way to organise the calendar. Therefore, I want to reduce the number of qualifiers and to regroup the qualifying periods.”
When asked if he would support such an idea if still a club manager, Wenger said: “I would agree with what I propose because I think for the club, it’s much better. There is no interference during the season and I suffered a lot from interference during the season.
“It’s not about me, it is about the proposal to make football better, clearer, more simple and more meaningful to the world.
“I am convinced that the clubs gain in it because they can focus completely, they have their players available for the whole season and the national teams benefit from it as well.
“There’s no increase of number of games, there’s a better rest period, less travelling and more quality competition. That’s why I think this project is really defendable.”
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