FIFA are always looking at ways to shake up football as we know it, and one of their biggest proposals is to host a World Cup every two years instead of four.
It’s an idea which hasn’t exactly been met with overwhelming support from around the world, so to try and fight his case, former Arsenal boss and FIFA chief of global development Arsene Wenger sat down with L’Equipe to explain the ins and outs of the idea.
Here’s what he had to say.
Why FIFA want a World Cup every 2 years
“The goal is to keep improving the quality of football by increasing the frequency of competitions, alongside an improvement to the laws of the game. The international calendar will remain stable until 2024, since it’s already set.
“But after 2024, there’s a chance to change it. I would like to increase the frequency of competition, in a way that’s led by simplicity, a clear calendar, and a desire to only organise competitions that have a real meaning to them, which are those which allow an improvement in the level of football.”
How holding more World Cups would work
“The big idea to start with is hold all qualifying matches over two international breaks, in October and March, for a greater visibility in the calendar, to make it simpler for clubs and for there to be less issues to resolve for national teams.
“The idea is to reduce the number of qualifying matches, to group them together, and then at the end of the season to have a World Cup and a championship for each confederation every two years. In between these two qualifying windows, the player would stay at their club all year.
“Instead of ten qualifiers, there would be six, for example in four-team groups. Nowadays, for the Euros 24 out of 55 teams qualify, close to half, while friendly matches are less and less important for audiences and qualifiers attract less interest than they did 15-20 years ago. What people want are competitions with high stakes, that are easy to understand. That’s why it must be done, for audiences and to improve football.”
How more World Cups would impact players
“There will be the same number of matches as before, and players will go on international duty less often. The idea is really to improve the level of play and competitions, there’s no financial incentive behind it, especially as FIFA redistributes the money to all of the federations around the world to develop football in their countries.
“For the players, there won’t be more matches, and there will be a compulsory rest time after international competitions – 25 days at least, as I see it.
“Generally the players are in favour. Ronaldo Fenomeno, Kaká, Mascherano, Gary Lineker are all in favour. It’s an idea which initially evokes some reticence, but once we’ve explained it the guys go home thinking: ‘in the end, it’s not a bad idea’. They change their minds.”
On the future of international football without change
“I’m not worried about the future of big tournaments. But there’s everything else, and it’s important that international football survives, because that’s the football that brings together every country. We have to keep this communion alive at all costs. We shouldn’t introduce new competitions, but rather focus on the big ones which have meaning.
“It’s true that you can oppose it to this almost ancestral four-year rhythm. I completely understand it because I myself grew up in it, but we have to recognise that society demands more and more high-stakes and high-emotion matches, and more often. Even the Euros, which took place two months ago, seem far behind to us now.
“I don’t think the footballing world wants qualifiers to last a year and a half anymore. We can just as well concentrate them over four-five weeks. In the end, the idea we have would only really come into play from 2028, since the 2026 World Cup has already been set. This means that seven years will have passed, during which mentalities will have continued to change in this direction. We have to anticipate the future.”
On whether clubs will need to be convinced
“The clubs will have their players all to themselves for seven months minimum! It’s a win-win for them. They’ll have their players constantly with them in the period when they need them the most. Having often been confronted with that myself, I know that it’s a real problem. Instead of having four breaks where clubs can lose their momentum because of internationals, there will only be two, or even one.
“Personally, I would prefer to have the whole of October for national teams and nothing in March. But even if we keep the plan for two international breaks for qualifiers, there will only be two instead of five, plus the tournament in June. It’s important to note that this is a global project, for men’s football but also women’s football and youth tournaments.
“In the end, this is a project which answers to an assessment I’ve had my whole life: I’ve always been happier to get up in the morning when I know I’m watching a great match in the evening. And I’ve always said that that’s the real goal of a manager: to give supporters the hope of something beautiful.”