Fifa is expanding the World Cup to 48 teams in a move it believes could secure $1bn more in revenues, as Gianni Infantino, the new president of world football’s governing body, stamps his mark on the scandal-hit organisation.
At a meeting at its headquarters in Zurich yesterday, Fifa’s ruling council unanimously voted for an expansion of the quadrennial tournament from 2026. The move will lead to about a quarter of all nations in the organisation gaining entry to football’s most prestigious event.
When Mr Infantino floated the expansion plan in October, he was building on a campaign pledge he made to secure the Fifa presidency last year when he was elected to replace his disgraced predecessor, Sepp Blatter.
The plan had been expected to meet stiff opposition. Uefa, European football’s governing body, had previously objected to any dilution of its large presence at the World Cup.
But after weeks of talks, Mr Infantino appears to have carved out a solution to suit most parties.
“Sixteen more countries, some of which will never have dreamt of participating in a World Cup, will have the chance to participate,” said Mr Infantino. “There are some critical voices from some clubs, but I prefer to focus on the positive ones.”
Yesterday, the European Club Association, the body that represents the continent’s largest club teams, came out against any expansion over concern it would increase the workload for players. The ECA said: “We fail to see the merits to changing the current format of 32 that has proven to be the perfect formula from all perspectives?.?.?.?we understand that this decision has been taken based on political reasons rather than sporting ones.”
The expanded tournament will feature 48 teams playing in 16 groups of three teams. The top two teams in each group qualify for an extended knockout phase. Though the number of matches played would rise from 64 to 80, no team would play more than seven matches and the tournament would be completed over the same period as the current 32-team, month-long version.
Europe is expected to gain more places in the competition as well as there being big increases for African and Asian countries, though these details will be confirmed at a later date.
Leaked internal documents suggest Fifa expects the new format will increase revenues by close to $1bn, based largely on projections that the expanded event will secure nearly $500m more in television rights deals.
昨日，代表欧洲顶级足球俱乐部的欧洲足球俱乐部协会(European Club Association)表示反对任何扩军计划，原因是担心增加球员的负担。欧洲足球俱乐部协会表示：“我们未能看到改变当前32支球队模式的价值，事实已经证明，从任何角度看，32支球队都是完美的模式……据我们所知，该决定是基于政治原因而非体育原因做出的。”