Wenger defends expanded Club World Cup format amid concerns over player welfare

FIFA's chief of Global Football Development Arsene Wenger said the governing body's decision to expand the Club World Cup will benefit the sport outside Europe, amid criticism of the tournament's impact on a congested football calendar.

On Sunday, FIFA announced that the Club World Cup will feature 32 teams and will be played every four years from 2025.

The governing body also announced a new Intercontinental Cup which will be played annually and will have the UEFA Champions League winner playing in the final against a team that comes through intercontinental playoffs.

The announcement drew criticism from the global players' union FIFPRO as well as the World Leagues Forum (WLF) over increased player workload and health risks.

Wenger countered the criticism by saying that the revamped format of the Club World Cup would increase resources for clubs around the world.

"In Europe we are lucky, but it's important that we make football really global and this creates a chance for other clubs to progress, this is the real target," the former Arsenal manager added.

"It will give more opportunities to more players all over the world to compete at the highest level...

"I accept that the football calendar is a busy one, but this is a competition that is going to take place every four years and of course the rest period during the competition and afterwards has to be respected."

Wenger also pointed to improvements in medicine in recent years, saying player welfare and injury prevention had "increased dramatically."

"It is unrecognisable from what it used to be. Also VAR has helped with the protection of players, as players know they cannot escape from making bad tackles that cause injury," Wenger said.

"So overall there has been huge improvements on the welfare side, and we want to continue with that progress."

The current version of the Club World Cup – an annual competition with seven teams – will be discontinued after the 2023 tournament now being hosted by Saudi Arabia. --Reuters

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