FIFA are considering plans to expand the amount of teams at the World Cup from 32 to 40 as early as the 2026 tournament, it has been announced.
The proposal does not need to be agreed by the governing body’s 209 Member Associations as the organisation’s ruling Executive Committee have the power to approve it.
A decision on whether the move will go ahead has been deferred, with no confirmed timeline given, though it is widely believed it will be approved due to reported widespread support.
It is being discussed by the Executive Committee during its current meeting in Zurich, an event overshadowed by the arrest of two “high-ranking” officials, reportedly Alfredo Hawit of Honduras and Juan Angel Napout of Paraguay.
They allegedly accepted millions of dollars in bribes in connection with tournaments in South America, as well as FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
Expanding the teams at FIFA’s flagship quadrennial competition, considered the second largest sports event in the world after the Olympic Games, comes amid plans to limit the terms officials can serve within the governing body, with further governance reforms expected following recommendations from the Reform Committee.
These proposals were put forward by the Committee, led by François Carrard, a former International Olympic Committee (IOC) director general involved in the reform process following the Salt Lake City 2002 bribery scandal, in the wake of the crisis which has enveloped world football’s governing body since the arrest of 14 officials and sports marketing officials ahead of FIFA’s Congress in May.
The World Cup was last enlarged for the 1994 tournament, held in the United States, from 24 teams to 32.
The 1978 competition in Argentina was the last to feature 16 teams as it was expanded to 24 for the 1982 edition, held in Spain.
The move may be seen as an attempt to challenge perceptions within football about the event as there are some who believe too many places at the competition are given to European nations.
Currently, UEFA’s countries are given 13 spots at the tournament, while Africa has five, 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, while one goes to the hosts.
The Oceania Football Confederation at present does not have a guaranteed berth.
It is thought the move will be supported by all five candidates who are running to replace Sepp Blatter when he steps down as FIFA President at the Extraordinary Congress in Zurich on February 26.
Asian Football Confederation President Sheik Salman bin Al-Khalifa, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, Jordanian Football Association chief Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Frenchman Jerome Champagne and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale are the five men vying to take over from the Swiss, who has held the role since 1998.
Infantino, who has also claimed he will withdraw from the race should suspended UEFA President Michel Platini be allowed to stand, which appears unlikely as it remains possible that he will be hit with a lifetime ban from football for his involvement in widespread corruption, had vowed to expand the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams as part of his manifesto.
The idea was first mooted by Platini in October 2013.
- This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, www.insidethegames.biz