Arsène Wenger will meet this week with men’s national team managers to discuss reform to the international calendar from 2024 and the controversial proposal to play the World Cup every two years.
Wenger, the head of global football development at Fifa, is the front man for the plan that has angered Uefa and Conmebol, the South American governing body, together with many bodies, clubs, managers, players and fans. Critics of the scheme worry about the dilution of the World Cup’s special value and the increased strain that it could put on players, along with many other issues.
Wenger remains determined to force it through, to persuade people that change is inevitable and necessary, that a biennial World Cup represents the future and his talks with the managers are a part of that push. The calls will be online and will take place on Tuesday and Thursday. All of the managers have been invited. Fifa’s proposals are set to be voted on in December by its 211 member associations.
“As a coach of the men’s national teams, their input is essential,” Wenger said. “Opportunities for us to come together are few and far between but we must embrace these occasions as such dialogue helps us all to protect the unique place that football has in the world and to make it truly global.”
Gareth Southgate, the England manager, met with Wenger in August and will not attend the latest briefings, although the Football Association’s Mark Bullingham will attend one for chief executives.
Southgate said in September that he had an open mind about the proposals – as long as the programme did not become overwhelmed. “I don’t know how our generation are going to find a World Cup every two years but I also know that things like The Hundred in cricket have been an incredible success,” he said. “The calendar generally needs to be tidied up. We can’t keep adding more things in.”
Southgate has since become more conflicted, saying last week that Fifa’s proposals “seem to change every time” he speaks to Bullingham about them.
One of Wenger’s suggestions has been to have only one international window each year. “What if your player was injured in October and he doesn’t play international football for a year?” Southgate said. “So I’m not quite sure where everything is.”