LONDON: FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani, acknowledging the benefit of hindsight, has said the World Cup hosting awards to Russia and Qatar may have proved ultimately positive for the sake of the governance of the game.
Since the tournaments were awarded in December 2010, widespread corruption has been exposed in the global game with many of the world federation leaders who made the decision have been banned from football – including then president Sepp Blatter.
Montagliani, who was elected in May as president of CONCACAF (the central and north American confederation) was speaking during the Leaders conference this week in London.
He said: “I think that decision was the tipping point for things to happen. If Russia and Qatar had not got these World Cups, would we be in this situation now with an opportunity to clean the game?
“If [rival bidders] England and the United States had got the World Cups, maybe we would’ve had status quo. Maybe the best thing that happened in football was Russia and Qatar.”
Montagliani’s predecessors as CONCACAF leaders – Jack Warner, Jeffrey Webb and Alfredo Hawit – have all been banned from the game by the FIFA ethics committee.
The Canadian also spoke up in favour of FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s proposal to expand the World Cup to 40 or 48 nations.
He said: “I think it’s going to change. I think it’s an opportunity and I think the president’s right to really look at it.
“There are traditionalists in the game who I think, if it was up to them, would still have a 16-team World Cup. But the reality is that the World Cup is not just an economic beast, but a product that inspires hope for countries. So if we can improve it, make it bigger without losing its romanticism, why not?
“From a 2026 perspective, pick a number (of finalists) and North America can handle it. A CONCACAF bid would be strong regardless of what number we finally set on.”
Montagliani has always been firmly in favour of the World Cup being hosted in CONCACAF in 2026. It could ever be a first-ever three-way staging.
He said: “We have three countries [United States, Canada, Mexico] who could put a World Cup on on their own. In terms of a regional [shared] bid, there’s an opportunity too but there have been zero formal discussions. We are not there yet.”
The World Cup issue will be considered by the governing FIFA Council at its meeting in Zurich next Thursday and Friday.