Evening. I’m a little late to this but Arsene Wenger has been speaking about the FIFA presidential election and has tipped future World Cups to be expanded to 40 teams.
For a bit of background, the tournament was played by 16 nations between 1934 and 1978, apart from on two occasions. In 1938 only 15 took part after Austria was absorbed by Germany, and in 1950, India, Scotland and Turkey withdrew, leaving just 13 to battle it out.
The World Cup has twice been expanded since then; in 1982 to 24 countries, and again in 1998 to 32 competing nations.
Anyhow, speaking to Arsenal Player, here’s what the boss said:
It is now or never – you would like to put it all on the table. You see the European Championship has gone from 16 to 24 teams. I bet you [because of] the way the system was organised, to be elected as new president of Fifa, the programme would be to move the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams. Why? Because Africa today has five countries in the World Cup and Europe has 13 – that cannot work for much longer. You cannot take countries away from Europe and if you want to be elected as Fifa president, you need the votes from the African countries, so you want to give more to Africa. So the next World Cups will be 40 teams.
Insightful as ever from the boss and unless you follow bidding processes and the political side of football closely, which I don’t, because it bores me more than watching Chelsea play, you’d probably have been unaware of the importance of Africa in the race to replace Sepp Blatter.
And you’d probably never have paid much attention to the fact Africa, and Asia for that matter, has been hugely under-represented at previous World Cups.
So if expansion is the only way to ensure proportionate representation of continents, then I suppose It’s inevitable and long over-due, regardless of any presidential plays.
However, a more inclusive World Cup would also possibly mean more games for already over-worked players and possibly a longer tournament schedule-wise, which would irritate clubs sides more than international football in it’s present form already does.
Inevitably, the boss has also had his say on the club v country debate:
We face a situation where it’s impossible for the players to get through a season and have rest. This kind of friction that it creates between the clubs, national teams and international competitions can create a split. One day the clubs could move away and say, ‘Enough is enough, we pay a huge amount of money for our best players so we’ll get them together ourselves and organise our own competitions’. It’s important that all of that gets on the table while we have the opportunity.
This is obviously a long-running issue which is always brought into sharp focus every time a player is injured while away on international duty.
You would imagine at some stage, surely, clubs and international football can come to some kind of arrangement where players are afforded more time off during a calendar year. Lets see.