Southgate fears two-year World Cup risks tradition

LONDON: England’s manager Gareth Southgate attends a training session at Hotspur Way, the Tottenham Hotspur training ground, in Enfield, north of London yesterday ahead of their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying matches against Poland. – AFP

LONDON: England boss Gareth Southgate voiced fears yesterday that the World Cup could lose some of its luster if it were held every two years, warning other competitions would have to be sacrificed to make it happen. Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is now director of development at world governing body FIFA, has called for football’s showpiece competition to become a biennial event. Southgate revealed after England’s 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra on Sunday that he had spoken to the Frenchman about the proposals.

The England manager is keen for an overhaul of the football calendar, with players under increasing strain from the demands of the club and international game. But Southgate is wary of tinkering with the format of a competition that has been played every four years, apart from cancellations as a result of World War II, since the inaugural edition in 1930.

“I can see the game always needs to evolve and be forward-thinking, but also there are some traditions that are very special and worth protecting,” Southgate said ahead of today’s World Cup qualifier in Poland. “It’s a welcome decision to discuss the overall calendar and that includes the demands on the players. We don’t need to put more into the calendar. If something is going in, something else has to come out so that requires all the governing bodies to come together and make sure that calendar gets sorted out.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin warned on Monday that holding the World Cup every two years would “dilute” the tournament. “We think that the jewel of the World Cup has value precisely because of its rarity,” Ceferin said at a general assembly of the European Club Association. “But holding it every two years will, by our opinion, lead to more randomization, less legitimacy, and it will unfortunately dilute the World Cup itself.

“The international match calendar does not need that. Our players don’t need to see more of their summers spent on consuming tournaments rather than devoted to relaxing and recuperation.” Wenger’s plan to compensate for the increased tournament load on players would include fewer qualifiers, collated into one international window during the season, and compulsory rest periods after the final stages of major tournaments. – AFP

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