(Reuters) – FIFA’s plan to double the number of World Cups by holding the tournament every two years has received a “very positive response”, Arsene Wenger, the man fronting the proposals, said on Thursday.
The former Arsenal manager is FIFA’s head of Global Football Development and has been pushing the idea for several weeks before holding a consultation with a group of around 80 former players and coaches in Doha, Qatar, this week.
Former Brazil World Cup winner Ronaldo appeared on a virtual press conference with Wenger and expressed his support for the idea with ex-Australia international Tim Cahill and former Denmark goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel also backing the process.
Schmeichel said that none of the players who had attended the discussion had been against the idea of moving to a two-year cycle rather than the current four-year gap.
“Overall, I think I have got a very positive response, but this decision is a democratic decision and will be made certainly by the 211 countries who are affiliated to FIFA. I think that we continue to consult people,” said Wenger.
The Frenchman’s plans have however been opposed by European confederation UEFA and by the World Leagues Forum which represents the main domestic club competitions.
Asked about that opposition and the risk of major conflict within the game, Wenger said he was just carrying out the role of developing a solution for the game.
“I’m not hesitant at all. I’m 100% convinced that what I propose is the right solution for the modern way to organise football. If people have better ideas, I’m open to it and I welcome every idea that is better than mine,” he said.
“I will not vote. I just make a proposal that I think will improve things and make life better for everybody, but especially make football better,” he said.
“That is my main target is not guided by anything else,” he said, adding his role was, however, to convince people of the merits of his proposal.
“What we do today is part of it, but as well I will respect football’s decision and I’m convinced as well that we can get everybody to accept that this is the best solution,” he said.
Wenger said a decision on the next steps for the proposal could be taken by FIFA as early as December.
Spain’s LaLiga president Javier Tebas is the latest European football figure to come out against the plans.
“A biennial World Cup is a threat not just to domestic football leagues but to the overall tradition of world football,” he said.
“It would require a reshuffle of the calendar that would disrupt the domestic leagues to the extend that interest would be lost and the continuity is jeopardised.
“This would have a cascading effect on the entire football pyramid, with fans losing interest in the sport. New competitions or playing more often will not help grow football, to the contrary.
“A biennial World Cup would worsen what we have today and not allow those who can to build and improve,” added Tebas.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, Editing by Ken Ferris)