It’s a shame that Wenger and FIFA have yet to come up with a convincing response to these issues – beyond pointing out that more countries could qualify for the World Cup, which is the kind of thing that could prove untrue in practice, no matter how logical in theory it might be, because his proposal not worthless. The Big Idea may be full of flaws, but the little ideas that support it are worth considering.
By streamlining the qualifying process, Wenger wants to reduce player fatigue and football’s carbon footprint, while also bringing order to football’s archaic calendar: He would have preferred longer windows, one or two per season, rather than a series of short international windows. (It is not decided when they will drop, but we can say that taking a month off in October just after the start of the European season should really be an opening game at best). This is a good idea, one that deserves to be capitalized.
Therefore, the idea of a secondary global competition – a sort of Europa League World Cup – that offers smaller countries a viable target alongside the main tournament, is not justified either. Football fans are naturally conservative, but rejecting any idea of change is self-defeating.
Unfortunately, though, the potential benefits will likely be lost as the entire plan was vetoed – UEFA straightened its nose with the sense that FIFA was simply bulldozing its vision, already sworn to fight him – or because they represent minor victories in a major, general defeat.
There is a sadness in that, because there are many ways that the format of football can be changed for the better, and this is an opportunity to do it. There’s a reason why all these Big Ideas keep popping up: In 2024, the game’s calendar is effectively reset, and every option is effectively in play until that happens. This is an opportunity for change, progressive and positive, only if all parties involved could resist the temptation to claim land and instead seek to nurture fertile land.
For example, keeping Wenger’s ideas for an intense qualifying process and (more or less) simultaneous continental tournaments, but leaving the biennial World Cup with all its drawbacks, shouldn’t be beyond the wits of football.