GENEVA: Europe’s leading clubs have sent Gianni Infantino their best wishes for his bid to become FIFA president – but not for his idea of enlarging the World Cup to 40 teams writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Infantino, general secretary of European federation UEFA, is one of fibe candidates vying to succeed disgraced and banned Sepp Blatter as head of the world governing body at its congress on February 26.
However the 50-year-old Swiss lawyer, like his rivals, has used the vote-encouraging artifice of a World Cup expansion from 32 teams, as one of the pillars of his manifesto.
The European Club Assciation, representing 220 clubs from 53 countries, made made their opposition plain at the general assembly in Geneva – though this may count for little, recalling their previous vain opposition to FIFA’s switch of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from summer to winter.
Milan’s Umberto Gandini, first vice-chairman of ECA, said: “Obviously we have known Gianni for many years [so] we wish him the best of luck.”
But Gandini cautioned: “Enlarging the World Cup is not really appealing to us. We clubs consider ourselves as the main providers of the actors of this event, the players, who are employees of the clubs.
“We are satisfied with the situation of the World Cup and European Championship within the internaional calendar but anything that touches this balance of interest needs to be carefully reviewed.
“It would be very difficult to find support from the ECA for an enlargement of the World Cup without proper consultation and analysis. As important stakeholders we will expect to be at the table to discuss possible reforms.
“We are not happy and expect to be able to discuss all these aspects and avoid this happening.”