An association comprising some of the top clubs in Europe yesterday slammed the Fifa Council’s backing for an expanded 48-team World Cup.
It was confirmed that Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s idea to increase the number of participating nations at the finals from 32 to 48 had been approved by delegates in Zurich, with the plans set to be enforced from the 2026 competition onwards.
However, the European Club Association (ECA), a body representing the interests of clubs such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid, has blasted the move, claiming it is motivated by political rather than sporting intentions.
A statement from the body, which represents 220 teams across the continent, said: “The European Club Association reiterates that it is in principle not in favour of an expanded World Cup.
“We fail to see the merits to changing the current format of 32 that has proven to be the perfect formula from all perspectives. Questionable also is the urgency in reaching such an important decision, with nine years to go until it becomes applicable, without the proper involvement of stakeholders who will be impacted by this change.
“We understand that this decision has been taken based on political reasons rather than sporting ones and under considerable political pressure, something ECA believes is regrettable.
“ECA will analyse in detail the impact and the consequences of the new format and will address the matter at the next meeting of its executive board scheduled for the end of January.”
The English Football Association stressed Fifa must take into account the wishes of players, supporters and leagues when formalising plans for the new-look competition.
“We will work with Uefa, Fifa and the other European associations to understand how the 48-team World Cup will work,” an FA statement said.
“The priority has to be consideration of the potential impact on fans, players, teams and leagues, and also recognition of the importance of sporting integrity and commercial viability.
“In terms of the allocation of places, we note that further discussions will follow across the confederations and would expect a proper consultation process to be carried out before any decision is made.”
One association to welcome the proposed new format was the Scottish Football Association, who called the move “a positive step” that gives the smaller nations a chance of qualifying for the tournament.
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