Gianni Infantino is the man tasked with reforming FIFA after Sepp Blatter’s disgraceful run as President ended this year.
It’s no tall order – Blatter wasn’t the only person inside FIFA guilty of serious wrongdoings – but the only way is up for world football’s governing body.
Part of Infantino’s manifesto was to increase the World Cup to 40 nations – which no doubt secured him a few more votes – and today he went a step further on that claim.
There aren’t many who think a larger tournament is good for football. Germany coach Joachim Low said it would “dilute” its sporting value.
Low, who guided his team to victory at the 2014 World Cup, added: “We have to be aware that in the long-run the quality will suffer. We should not overdo it.”
So Low will be disappointed to find that 40 teams aren’t the end of FIFA’s planned expansion to its beloved football tournament.
Infantino, speaking in Colombia today, admitted that FIFA is considering a 48-national tournament, up from the current number of 32.
It’s not as bad as it sounds. There would be a preliminary knockout round before the group stage that featured 32 teams.
The 16 winners of those contests would join the 16 teams who receive an automatic bye into the group stage.
So there wouldn’t be a 48-team group stage, thankfully. But still, plenty of inferior nations would get the chance to compete in the host nation for the chance to play in the group stage.
A final decision will be reached by the FIFA council in January.
“These are ideas to find the best solution, we will debate them this month and we will decide everything by 2017,” Infantino said, per the Telegraph. “They are ideas which we put forward to see which one is the best.
“The idea is that 16 teams would qualify directly to the group stage and the other 32 would play in a preliminary phase, in the country where the World Cup is being played – they would play for the remaining 16 places,” he said.
“It means we continue with a normal World Cup for 32 teams, but 48 teams go to the party.
“Fifa’s idea is to develop football in the whole world, and the World Cup is the biggest event there is,” he added. “It’s more than a competition, it’s a social event.”
We have one question. Shouldn’t Infantino be working to ensure FIFA is clean before he starts planning to expand the World Cup?