DECEMBER 29, 2016 – Gianni Infantino, the president of the global football governing body, FIFA, on Wednesday proved again his enthusiasm towards expanding the World Cup finals from 32 to 48 teams.
As it can be recalled, the European Club Association – the powerful body representing Europe’s top clubs – had told Infantino earlier this month that it opposes a bigger World Cup, saying leading players were already under too much strain.
But the new President has said he will not be a “dictator” in the discussions over his proposal.
“I strongly believe in that, but obviously, I’m not a dictator,” Infantino told the closing session of the Dubai International Sports Conference.
“This is something that needs to be discussed. When discussed with the associations in the summits they were overwhelmingly in favour, but more discussions will have to take place,” he said.
Infantino had proposed a 48-team World Cup that would feature 16 groups of three, from which the top two teams would progress to the knockout round.
The proposal will reportedly be submitted to the FIFA Council next month. If the proposal is accepted, the change will likely take place from 2026.
Infantino said that expansion means “inclusion” in the “biggest social and sporting event.”
He said failure to qualify for the finals strongly affects nations, with coaches being sacked and clubs and players criticized.
If they qualify “the whole country lives and breathes football. Everyone gets interested.
“If we can have a format that does not add any additional matches but brings so much joy to those who don’t have the chance to participate, then we will have to think about that,” he added.