Development

Wenger: We must ensure football is developing at the same rate everywhere

Arsene Wenger looks on
© imago images
  • Arsène Wenger appointed FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development last month
  • Former Arsenal manager is in Qatar at the FIFA Club World Cup
  • Le Professeur talks FIFA role, VAR, the demand for elite football and more

Last month, FIFA announced the arrival of a major new signing: the one and only Arsène Wenger. The former Arsenal, Nagoya Grampus Eight and AS Monaco manager was unveiled as FIFA’s Chief of Global Football Development, where he is responsible for overseeing and driving the growth and development of the sport for both men and women around the world.

Drawing on enormous experience from a hugely successful coaching career, where he was one of the longest-serving and most eminent coaches in English top-flight history, Wenger is applying his vast knowledge of the beautiful game in a different role. So, what is life like away from the sidelines for the 70-year-old?

"It was a different change because I spent my whole life on one side of football: the competitive side, focused on winning the next game," said Wenger, speaking to media in Doha, Qatar. "Now, it is more about what is next for the game: how can we develop it to be even better around the world?"

Renowned for his meticulous study and approach to the game, Wenger’s role with FIFA sees him act as a leading authority on technical matters, as well as including a particular focus on coach education when not helping develop the beautiful game all over the globe.

"FIFA has three roles: one as an organiser of competitions, the second as a regulator of competitions and rules, and the third is developing football all over the world," he said. "In Europe, we are privileged that on the organisation front, there is not too much to do. But there is a huge gap between Europe and the rest of the world.

"FIFA has a responsibility to ensure football is developing at the same rate everywhere. There is a demand there for the organisation of competitions, coaching development, player development – and that’s what we’re trying to do."

Wenger is currently in Qatar at the FIFA Club World Cup™ presented by Alibaba Cloud, where champions from every continent in the world vie for the right to be crowned the world’s best. While the current format sees seven sides – six continental kings and a host club – battle for global glory, the competition will be expanded in 2021 to 24 teams.

"There are two demands at the moment: one is the local demand within countries where people are still interested locally in their club," said Wenger. "Then you have the international fan who wants to see the best against the best.

"There is a demand for elite football and what you can still sell on the local level is not sellable anymore on the international level – and this demand has to be satisfied. People want to see top level football because they know today what it means."

In 2016, the Club World Cup was the first FIFA tournament to use video assistance to support referees with match-changing decisions.

Since then Video Assistant Referees (VAR) have spread across world football, being used at the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018™, the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ and having its debut season in the English Premier League, where Wenger coached from 1996 to 2018, winning three league titles.

"I believe the percentage of decisions are better," Wenger said of the introduction of VARs to the Premier League. "We are in the first year [in the Premier League] and it cannot be perfect in the first year.

"There has to be time to make it more efficient and quicker but overall, the main target for me is to increase the number of right decisions – and that is of course what is achieved. We’re working hard to get that system better with the referees."

It is evident to see that Wenger, known as Le Professeur, still speaks with the same amount of passion for the beautiful game now in his role with FIFA as he did when he was managing at the highest level.

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