Once of the best descriptions of Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s President and all-around football villain, was made by a German journalist who said of Sepp, “He has 50 new ideas before breakfast and 51 of them are bad.” That basically sums up Blatter, but I want to turn my attention to one of his recent presidential challengers who has shown that he too is not immune from bad ideas.
That challenger is Grant Wahl, whose symbolic run can to nothing, as pretty much everyone knew it would. I am ambivalent about Wahl* because on one hand he is one of the most prominent supporters of the game (men’s and women’s), but on the other, when he is not writing magazine articles, he comes up with amazingly ridiculous ideas that no doubt he believes are brilliant. Because his blog is on SI.com as opposed to say, tracingthetree.wordpress.com, his bad ideas are given far more credit than others’ bad ideas.
The specific bad idea that I am referring to today is in this bullet point wish list (calling it journalism or a blog entry is too generous.) He calls for the Women’s World Cup to be held every two years instead of every four. Now at first blush that seems brilliant. Yay! More women’s football! But if you scratch the surface, this is a deeply flawed and even dangerous idea.
Discounting the logistics of holding qualifiers so frequently (clubs in America and Europe do want their players to play for the club from time to time), holding the World Cup ever two years would be detrimental for another reason. The World Cup (and the Olympics) gets so much publicity precisely because it is once every four years. It’s a simple ration: the more international competitions there are, the less people are willing to watch. This is particularly true of niche sports. Swimming and track and field have major meets every two years (odd years so as not to conflict with the Olympics). Who really pays attention to that, other than perhaps the occasional Michael Phelps reference? Men’s and women’s basketball, so popular at the Olympics, has much less attention for its own World Championships (non-Olympic even years). Even in football the biennial African Cup of Nations is more of a nuisance than an event, especially for the European clubs and their fans. If it were four years rather than two, like every other confederation’s cup (CAF greed), it would be far more exciting.
What makes a World Cup or an Olympics so special is that is so rare. If the World Cup were to move to every two years, it would become background noise. However one builds off the success of this World Cup to maintain a viable and sustainable women’s professional football league (and I have no solutions), holding the World Cup more frequently is not the way. That would only cheapen the competition.
Way to go, Grant! Now all you need is 50 more bad ideas, and you can really challenge for FIFA presidency.
* While I am ambivalent about Wahl, one must marvel in amazement at the quality of football writers who write columns for SI.com, many of whom also write for English publications, in particular The Guardian. Whatever you feel about The Guardian, their football coverage is top-notch. Jonathan Wilson, Sid Lowe, Tim Vickery, Georgina Turner, Raphael Honigstein, Marcela Moro y Araujo, Gabriele Marcotti. The list goes on and on. Which reminds me. Whatever happened to Gregory Sica? Between SI and ESPN (again excluding Soccernet), there is no question which one I go to first.