ZURICH: FIFA will consider whether to expand the World Cup finals from 32 to 40 teams once it has a new president – and possibly new governance system – in place writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The issue of extending the finals, in response to pressure from Africa and Asia, was reviewed at this week’s meeting of the executive committee in Zurich. Such a move would obviously bring financial advantages which are of particular concern after the world football federation’s first loss-making year since 2001.
Several contenders for the FIFA presidency, up to election on February 26, have suggested an expansion in a bid to garner support at the ballot box. One man in particular in favour is Gianni Infantino, the general secretary of European federation UEFA.
However, given the exco’s horrific recent record in strategic decisions concerning the World Cup – dual bidding, the 2010 vote, etc – it was decided sensible to study the proposal and submit it to wide consultation.
One issue would be changing the competition system to keep a 40-team finals within a reasonable time scale while maintaining the value of all matches.
Several confederations believe UEFA has too many guaranteed places at the 32-team tournament. UEFA will have 14 places at the next World Cup in Russia (including the hosts), up to 10 more than the next best-represented confederation. Oceania, with only half a place allocated, currently has no guaranteed place.
At present Africa has five places, Asia four and a half, Europe 13, North and Central America three and a half, South America four and a half, Oceania half a place and one is automatically allocated to the host nation. The World Cup was expanded from 24 teams to 32 in 1994.