England manager Gareth Southgate compared FIFA’s grand plan to host a World Cup every two years to cricket launching the successful The Hundred format this summer
Gareth Southgate believes international football could be ready for the biggest ever revolution within the game.
Southgate compared FIFA’s grand plan for a World Cup every two years to cricket launching The Hundred format this summer.
England boss Southgate admits he has some major concerns but does see the value of a major shake-up of the global football calendar after 2024.
FIFA have got former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on board to sell the idea to international managers including Southgate as they try to push it through but the momentum is building.
Southgate said: “My feedback would be I don’t know if 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.”
FIFA’s plan would see a major football tournament being played every summer, the World Cup between the Euros while the Nations League would have to give while qualifiers would also have to be overhauled.
Clearly, the biggest beneficiary would be FIFA’s coffers but it does go beyond that because the World Cup is arguably the biggest sporting event on the planet and the biggest tournament a player can win during their career.
Making it every four years limits that opportunity but getting the older generation to see past the tried and trusted may be FIFA’s biggest battle. So getting Wenger on board – the man who was involved in countless club v country rows during his reign at Arsenal – may be a masterstroke.
But top managers like Jurgen Klopp are bound to have concerns about the potential for extra strain on their players while UEFA are fiercely opposed to the concept, not least because it could dilute the importance of their competitions.
Southgate believes players should be involved in discussions while he accepts that his generation may find it a hard sell.
He added: “As a traditionalist it feels you could lose some of the allure of the World Cup because the scarcity of it makes it more important. But 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 am not certain on that side of it.
“I think they should be represented by players’ unions. You cannot go into individual players, that would take forever. The players’ unions could gather the thoughts of the players and I just think everybody has to work together on the calendar.
“We talked about this after Covid and you can’t keep adding. We have had some fixtures that have been so difficult, if you think back to last September when the players had not played a league game, then we were expected to play at a high level in international fixtures.
“We can’t keep adding in those things. But none of us in the game are holding our hands out for less money, so we also have to accept that comes with a consequence.
“There is a balance to all this but across the board governing bodies have to work for a calendar that works for the leagues and confederations and for FIFA. It has to be coordinated. If we are looking that far ahead, there is no reason it can’t be.”
How would it work?
FIFA commissioned a feasibility study in May to try and thrash out plans for a World Cup every two years.
They are now trying to gain support for their grand plan – but will immediately face opposition from clubs, UEFA and players’ unions.
The basic plan would be to have a World Cup followed by a Euros or Copa America, meaning there would be an international tournament every summer.
The next review of the international calendar is due to be implemented after 2024.
The 2026 World Cup will host 48 teams rather than 32.
The biggest shake-up will come in the qualifying format which will see that system revamped, seeded and qualifying could be scaled down and rankings used instead.
However, it is hard to imagine the Nations League – UEFA’s other tournament – could be squeezed into the format.