OPEN-MINDED: Gareth Southgate open to new World Cup proposals
PA: Attila Trenka
England boss Gareth Southgate has met with Arsene Wenger to discuss plans to stage the World Cup every two years and is “open-minded” to the proposals.
FIFA is holding a feasibility study into shortening the gap between men’s and women’s World Cups from four to two years, following a request from the Saudi Arabian federation in May which was approved by 166 national associations.
Former Arsenal manager Wenger, who is now FIFA’s chief of global football development, has also backed the plans.
Southgate revealed after England’s 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra on Sunday evening that he had spoken to Wenger about the proposals and that he is open to the possibility – so long as the football calendar does not become overwhelmed.
“I actually met with Arsene a couple of weeks ago, he was meeting a few different coaches so I have a pretty good idea of the proposals,” Southgate said.
“I think the whole calendar needs reviewing. My feedback would be – I don’t know how our generation are going to find a World Cup every two years a strange concept.
“But I also know that things like The Hundred in cricket have been an incredible success, so I’m open-minded about some of those things. But the calendar generally needs to be tidied up. We can’t keep adding more things in.
“I agree generally with the concept of better quality matches. Fewer matches, better quality across the board, but there’s lots of other things that need consideration and we can’t just add more in at the moment.”
Southgate refused to offer his own opinion on whether he believes the plans would be a success and would like the players themselves to have a say on proposals.
“We keep adding more competitions in and I’m intrigued to see what comes out to allow that space to happen because we can’t keep adding onto the workload of the players,” he added.
“It was interesting to hear the proposals and I was able to feed back some of my thoughts.
“Without knowing how all that fits together because it’s too complex to say it was all positive or I didn’t agree with it all.
“There’s too many different strands, so there’s bits I thought could work, bits I think need more consideration and bits that probably wouldn’t work. I’m not certain. I’m not massively pro or negative to the concept, I think it needs a lot more thought.
“I also get it that if you are a player who has an injury for the World Cup, you might only get one opportunity every eight years, and that is really tough. I’m not certain on that side of it.
“The players’ unions could gather the thoughts of the players and I just think everybody has to work together on the calendar. It has to be coordinated. If we are looking that far ahead, there is no reason it can’t be.”
While Southgate saw some positives, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin expressed “grave concerns” about the proposals in a letter seen by the PA news agency last week, and returned to the theme at the European Club Association’s General Assembly in Geneva on Monday.
“We think that the jewel of the World Cup has value precisely because of its rarity,” he said. “Holding it every two years will lead to less legitimacy and dilute the World Cup itself. We think there is a space for everything and both national teams and clubs are fully occupying that physical and commercial space.”
Ceferin also highlighted his concerns over the impact on players, adding: “They don’t need to see more of their summers spent on consuming tournaments rather than devoted to relaxing and recuperation.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said his organisation was not trying to impose its will on the rest of football, and in a pre-recorded video address to the ECA assembly, he said: “There are no taboo topics, the door of FIFA is open to any idea to any proposal.
“We shouldn’t take this consultation process as any sort of challenge, any sort of fight, as I’ve been hearing here and there. It is simply a way to try to make football, and global football, strong, and for this we need the help and the assistance of everyone.”
Watch the channel on TV