(WFI) An expanded FIFA World Cup with 48 teams? Yes, sure. As soon as Qatar 2022? No, Thank you.
Europe’s biggest leagues have expressed their frontal opposition to the expansion of the football’s planetary tournament in four years in Qatar.
The possible expansion comes from a proposal expressed last week by South America’s CONMEBOL and embraced by FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino.
“We are not prepared to make any changes on the calendar for expanding the 2022 World Cup.” Lars-Christer Olsson, CEO of the 32-member European Leagues group, said on Monday.
FIFA had already approved that increase in the number of teams but only starting at the 2026 World Cup
A 48-team World Cup means 16 more countries, 16 extra games and at least four additional days to the tournament schedule.
“We have already been flexible to allow the World Cup to be played in the (Qatari) winter and have agreed the dates,” Olsson said, adding “we are not prepared for the duration of the World Cup to be any longer.”
In 2015, FIFA announced that the 2022 World Cup would be staged in the last two months of the year (Nov-Dec) in an effort to avoid exposing players and fans to the extreme heat in Qatar during June-July when the tournament is traditionally played.
Football’s governing body also agreed for the shorter Qatari event in a 28-day program instead of the typical 32-day World Cup.
That was also a concession to Europe where most leagues will be forced to shut down during the 2022 World Cup at the end of the year with the ensuing monetary losses that clubs will have to endure.
Now an expanded tournament in Qatar would likely take another round of weekend fixtures from the English Premier League, the Spanish La Liga and the German Bundesliga among others in the middle of their season.
“FIFA seems to be on an expansion drive,” added Olsson “It’s time people thought about the players – they need time to rest. It cannot just be money deciding how football should be organized.”
The European Club Association representing more than 200 members agreed to a Qatar World Cup at the end of the year only after it signed a guarantee from FIFA to receive $209 million in World Cup revenues from each of the 2018 tournament in Russia and the 2022 edition .
The money is distributed on a daily rate for players involved in the tournament to each club which employed him during the two previous years.
A few questions have also arisen about the capability of Qatar to accommodate an expanded World Cup.
Presently the emirate is building or remodeling eight stadiums for a 64-game tournament while FIFA’s ideal design for an expanded 48-team, 80-game tournament calls for 12 venues.
Some have suggested that an expansion would force FIFA to include some of Qatar’s neighboring countries as co-hosts of the 2022 World Cup. Given the tense political climate in that region where presently Qatar faces a boycott by a Saudi-led coalition, the proposition of a multinational tournament in the Persian Gulf appears, at the very least, very challenging.
World football’s governing body is likely to decide on the expansion plan for 2022 during the next FIFA Congress in June in Moscow.
By INSIDER Javier Monne
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