Arsène Wenger offered detailed presentation on his vision for the “football of tomorrow”
Discussed existing issues with international match calendar and opportunities offered by reorganisation
Wenger told the digital press conference: "We want games with meaning"
Arsène Wenger provided media with his perspectives on the “football of tomorrow” in a detailed presentation that highlighted not only the existing issues with the international match calendar, but also the opportunities that global football has with a reorganisation beyond 2024.
The FIFA Chief of Global Football Development was speaking at a digital press conference involving media from across the world that followed a two-day meeting of the FIFA Technical Advisory Group on the future of men’s football which was attended by a group of football stars in Doha, Qatar.
“Our mission is to plan and shape the football of tomorrow, and improve the competition of global football,” Arsène Wenger said in outlining his plan which has highlighted the need to put players and fan first. “We have had many complaints that we had a marathon of games, meaning that we play too many matches. We want games with meaning, and we want to play at the highest level and not create the quantity, but the quality of matches.”
The former Arsenal manager stated that by reducing the current “stop-and-go” nature of national team matches that are peppered throughout the club football season, the opportunity existed for less travel for players, a reduction in player fatigue and the possibility of more meaningful matches.
“We are not looking to increase the number of games, and we are very conscious of that,” he said. “What is most important for me is more meaningful games. We want to give the fans what fans demand today, and that is meaningful games. We want to respond to that expectation.”
But the FIFA Chief of Global Football Development also referenced the need for the calendar to address the widening gap between confederations where the the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup are centralised on teams from one or two geographical regions. “Many confederations have no access to top level matches, and in this way, they have no chance to close the gap between themselves and the big confederations,” he said. “I personally struggle with the notion that I work for football, but the situation exists where a boy who was born somewhere hasn’t the same chance as another boy who was born in a country that is gifted with structured football and talent development. I want to give every talent a chance, and in this way, I also personally think that the current international match calendar is outdated.”
His thoughts were also shared with a group of star players who are comprising the FIFA Technical Advisory Group on the future of men’s football, and who have provided detailed feedback to Wenger’s plans. “You have 20 per cent national team football and 80 per cent club football, and we want to maintain that balance, but we just want to reorganise it in a more efficient way,” Wenger added. “This means regrouping and reducing qualifiers in national team football, creating longer periods for players to remain with their clubs, and to establish a guaranteed rest period for players every year.”
The proposal seeks to regroup global and regional national team tournaments in a structured fashion. “What I see with a revised calendar is the option to organise a FIFA World Cup in 2026, and then in 2027, you could regroup the confederation tournaments again, and then in 2028, hold the FIFA World Cup,” he stated. “There has been a constant evolution of the FIFA World Cup since it started with 13 teams in 1930, until the situation that in 2026, when we will have 48 teams at the final tournament.”
Aligned to that, football’s current position as the world’s most popular sport is also not taken for granted and Wenger is keen that changes future proof football’s status for the longer term. “Times are changing and so are behaviours,” the FIFA Chief of Global Football Development said, where simplicity and immediacy are dominant social characteristics.
“We live in a fast society with e-sports, and the new generations are used to have quick, instant responses for what they want. You also have globalisation and a new mindset. I think the way this proposal is shaped will create a new mindset. For instance, the UEFA EURO was moved to 2021 because of the COVID situation, and it was a fantastic competition, and next year we have a World Cup. It doesn’t look to me that there is any problem with it. I would even say that it looks like the EURO was already over a long time ago, and we’re all waiting keenly to have the next World Cup. Fans benefit because I think they deserve the right to watch the top quality competitions more frequently, while players will have a reduction in their current travel burden, they will play more competitive matches and have more chances to participate in the World Cup.”