Arsene Wenger officially launched his master plan for a World Cup every two years – ignoring the European backlash.
The former Arsenal boss assembled a team of former world stars in Doha to help sell his scheme.
Wenger articulated his vision, insisting his proposals would reduce the strain on players, improve the quality and lessen the quantity of international football and develop the game globally.
Fifa, boosted by support from most of the non-European world, is seeking to railroad the plans through by the end of the year, although it is more likely that a final vote by the 211 member associations will not come until May.
But while Wenger and the likes of Brazilian superstar Ronaldo, Aussie Tim Cahill and Peter Schmeichel all came out fighting, the reality of his plan will see wholesale changes that may not be well received.
The basic concept will see a major tournament every summer, with the World Cup, from 2026 onwards, being played in the even-numbered years and continental tournaments like the Euros in the odd ones.
Wenger wants to end the current elongated qualification process, of up to 18 games in South America, slashed to either a single six or seven-game tournament every October or the same number of matches split between October and March.
That, insisted the Frenchman would cut thousands of miles off the distances travelled by players over a four-year period, while the qualifiers would become ‘more meaningful’ and would result in players playing fewer games in total.
More critically, he argues, more World Cups would have a huge impact on the development of football worldwide.
Wenger said: “It is a fact that we are moving to 48 countries at the World Cup from 2026, with Africa going from five spaces to nine.
“But more frequent World Cups mean more opportunities for countries to participate.
“Big players want to play big games. Every player dreams to play in top competitions.
“And it is the repeated travelling of the current schedule that is more detrimental than the number of games.”
Fifa is dismissive of the suggestion by Uefa President Alexander Ceferin that European and South American countries would boycott the tournament.
But behind the big picture, many will be unhappy with the small details.
Wenger’s plan, part of Fifa President Gianni Infantino’s vision, puts the World cup in a biennial June date.
Yet there is acceptance that it might actually be moved to the October window – forcing a flipping of schedules – to allow the tournament to be held in the Middle East.
Wenger insisted the clubs would welcome a potentially uninterrupted seven month run of matches.
What is equally evident is that, once the vote is won, Infantino will seek to fill the January slot with his planned extended Club World Cup, involving up to 24 teams including two from the Prem.
Wenger, pressed on that, said: “We decided to re-organise the international match calendar.
“When that is decided, we will come back to the Club World Cup and see if it needs to be changed.
“We want to give fans clarity and simplicity. I have just been guided by creating a programme that makes football better.
“And by this respecting the 80/20 balance between club and international football, I would sign for it with two hands if I was in a club.”
Backing the proposal, Ronaldo said: “The whole world stops to look at this competition. It is a beautiful experience and we should have it every two years. I have no reservations or doubts.”
Schmeichel added: “I played for Denmark for 14 years and only went to one World Cup so I am very positive about it.”
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