Gareth Southgate ‘open-minded’ over Fifa plans to stage World Cup every two years

England manager met with Arsene Wenger to discuss Fifa feasibility study

England manager Gareth Southgate says he is "open-minded" about Fifa's plans to stage the World Cup every two years following a meeting with Arsene Wenger.

Fifa is holding a feasibility study into shortening the gap between men’s and women’s World Cups from four to two years, following a request from the Saudi Arabian federation in May, which was approved by 166 national associations.

The idea has won the backing of former Arsenal boss Wenger, who is now Fifa’s chief of global football development.

Southgate revealed after England’s 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra on Sunday evening that he had spoken to Wenger about the proposals, saying he was on board as long as the football calendar does not become overwhelmed.

“I actually met with Arsene a couple of weeks ago, he was meeting a few different coaches so I have a pretty good idea of the proposals,” Southgate said.

“I think the whole calendar needs reviewing. My feedback would be – I don’t know how our generation are going to find a World Cup every two years a strange concept.

“But I also know that things like The Hundred in cricket have been an incredible success, so I’m open-minded about some of those things. But the calendar generally needs to be tidied up. We can’t keep adding more things in.

“I agree generally with the concept of better quality matches. Fewer matches, better quality across the board, but there’s lots of other things that need consideration and we can’t just add more in at the moment.”

Southgate said details still needed to be nailed down before he gave his full backing and that it was important that players were consulted over the proposals.

“There’s too many different strands, so there’s bits I thought could work, bits I think need more consideration and bits that probably wouldn’t work. I’m not certain," he added. "I’m not massively pro or negative to the concept, I think it needs a lot more thought.

“I also get it that if you are a player who has an injury for the World Cup, you might only get one opportunity every eight years, and that is really tough. I’m not certain on that side of it.

“The players’ unions could gather the thoughts of the players and I just think everybody has to work together on the calendar. It has to be coordinated. If we are looking that far ahead, there is no reason it can’t be.”

While Southgate saw some positives, Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin expressed “grave concerns” about the proposals in a letter seen by the PA news agency last week, and returned to the theme at the European Club Association’s General Assembly in Geneva on Monday.

“We think that the jewel of the World Cup has value precisely because of its rarity,” he said. “Holding it every two years will lead to less legitimacy and dilute the World Cup itself. We think there is a space for everything and both national teams and clubs are fully occupying that physical and commercial space.”

England v Andorra player ratings

Updated: September 7th 2021, 8:21 AM
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