The Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, has defended his derided World Cup expansion plan and backed the idea of more than one country the tournament in order to keep costs down. Following the first meeting of the newly rebranded and expanded Fifa Council, which replaced the discredited executive committee, Infantino unveiled a vision document named “Fifa 2. 0” and a slew of targets and plans.
One of the items discussed was the plan to expand the World Cup to 40 or 48 teams from 2026. Infantino said no final decision would be taken until January but that there was a “positive” feeling towards the idea of expansion. The Fifa president defended his proposal to increase the competition to 48 teams, comprising 16 seeded countries and 32 more who would play off for the opportunity to play in the group stage.
“Whether it will be 40 or 48, it was a positive discussion. I don’t agree it will dilute the quality,” Infantino said. “I would like to remind you that in the last World Cup, England and Italy were eliminated by Costa Rica.
The level of football is increasing all over the world. “In a 48 team format, the quality would be higher because the 32 teams would have a play off. The quality would improve and not decrease in any way.
” He said the idea would increase excitement and boost football participation and finances in those countries that qualified, rejecting criticism of the fact that 16 teams would have to fly home after just one match. “It is certainly an exciting moment for that country and the players and the fans. You don’t just travel to play a friendly but a match that is extremely important.
“Look at England — one of the matches that is most followed is the to get into the Premier League. ” Among a raft of promises, Fifa said it would increase the amount awarded to each member association to $1. 25m over four years from the current $400, 000, while introducing more oversight of World Cup ticketing and local World Cup organising committees.
Infantino promised that the 2026 World Cup bidding process would be “absolutely transparent and bulletproof” and said he would encourage the idea of to keep down costs. “We want to ensure World Cups are in future sustainable events. That is why, for example, we are in favour of co hosting,” said the former Uefa general secretary.
World Cup bids and ticketing arrangements have previously been closely linked to corruption allegations. The move to ensure more oversight over ticketing arrangements could spell the end for its long standing contract with ticketing partner Match. Infantino, elected in February in the wake Fifa’s near collapse amid a corruption crisis, said a new women’s football division would be responsible for doubling global participation from 30m to 60m within the next decade.
“Our vision is pretty simple but pretty clear as well — to promote the game, protect its integrity and bring the game to all. How will we do this? By investing, by innovating, by involving the fans more. We live in a digital world and we have to embrace this.
” As part of the scheme, he also said Fifa would also act as a venture capital company investing in start up companies and joint ventures with an “entrepreneurial mindset”. Infantino insisted that his “Fifa 2. 0” vision differed from any number of earlier initiatives under disgraced former president Sepp Blatter.
“It’s not words, it’s actions in terms of good governance, controls and transparency processes,” he said..