KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Europe’s leading clubs have objected to Gianni Infantino proposal that world federation FIFA should expand the size of the World Cup finals from 2026.
The FIFA president promised an expansion to attract votes in his election campaign this time last year and has discussed various different formulae in recent discussions with regional confederations.
Secretary-general Fatma Samoura recently sought to persuade the powerful German federation of the value of the project which is likely to be approved by FIFA Council on January 9 and 10 in Zurich. A recommendation will then go forward to FIFA Congress in May.
Objections have been raised by the European Club Association which represents more than 200 clubs.
A statement said: “FIFA president Gianni Infantino has recently made several proposals aimed at further expanding the number of participating nations at the World Cup. According to Gianni Infantino’s proposals, the expansion is expected to take effect at the FIFA World Cup in 2026.
“The number of games being played throughout the year has already reached an unacceptable level, in particular for national team players.
“The ECA executive board therefore rejects such initiative and has today sent a letter to Gianni Infantino calling on FIFA not to increase the number of participants at future World Cups.”
ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who also leads German champions Bayern Munich, added: “We have to focus on the sport again. Politics and commerce should not be the exclusive priority in football.
“In the interest of the fans and the players, we urge FIFA not to increase the number of World Cup participants.”
The ECA’s opposition is likely to be as unsuccessful as its opposition to FIFA’s shifting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar from the usual summer time slot to November and December.
However, vocal opposition has always proved worth its weight in FIFA gold. The clubs’ share of World Cup income has risen from $40m in 2010, to $70m in 2014 and will reach $209m in both 2018 and 2022.