That Wenger and FIFA have yet to be able to provide a convincing response to these issues – beyond pointing out that more countries would be able to qualify for the World Cup, which may well prove to be false in practice, no matter how much that makes sense in theory – it’s a shame, because his proposition is not without value. The Big Idea may be riddled with flaws, but the small ideas that support it are worth considering.
Wenger wants to reduce player fatigue and football’s carbon footprint, as well as bring order to football’s archaic calendar, by streamlining the qualification process: rather than a series of brief international windows, he would prefer a , or two, longer per season. (When they will fall is not decided, but it can be said that taking a month off in October, just after the start of the European season, should really be an opening bet at best). It’s a Good Idea, which deserves to be capitalized on.
Likewise, the idea of a secondary world competition – a sort of Europa League World Cup – which would run alongside the main tournament, giving smaller nations a viable target, is not without merit. Football fans are naturally conservative, but it would be doomed to reject any idea of change whatsoever.
Unfortunately, the potential benefits will likely be lost, either because the whole plan is vetoed – UEFA’s nose twisted with the feeling that FIFA is just bulldozing its vision, has already vowed to fight it – or because they represent small victories in a resounding overall defeat.
There is a sadness in that, because there are so many ways to change the format of football for the better, and this is the opportunity to do so. There’s a reason all of these great ideas keep emerging: In 2024, the game’s timeline actually resets, and until it does, every option is effectively in the game. It’s an opportunity. change, of the gradual and positive kind, if only all parties concerned could resist the temptation to claim territory and explore fertile ground instead.
You don’t have to go beyond the spirit of football, for example, to keep Wenger’s ideas for a condensed qualifying process and (more or less) contemporary continental tournaments, but abandon a biennial World Cup, with all its drawbacks.