OPINION: World Cup expansion is a joke

Rick Olivares

Posted at Jan 11 2017 12:10 PM

It is as good as done.

FIFA will vote for a 50% increase in participants in the World Cup after the games in Russia in 2018. The participating nations will increase from 32 to a whopping 48! The group stages will feature 16 groups of three countries with the top two advancing into the next stage.

I am all for the growth of football but this decision is all about votes and money.

Just when you think that it’s all hunky dory with the removal of Sepp Blatter and all those implicated in the bribery and corruption scandals, the man now at the helm of world football, who incidentally was implicated in the Panama Papers controversy, is proposing change. He ran for the presidency promising to increase the number of participating countries to at least 40.

He sure learned from Joao Havelange and Blatter about dangling World Cup slots in exchange for votes. Naturally, he won.

And to think the wheel isn’t broken.

The motto for the world-governing body for football is “For the game. For the world.”

I think they should add a third component – “For the money”.

The 2014 World Cup generated $4.8 billion in television rights and sponsorships. Four point eight freaking billion. Another $550 million was pocketed from ticket sales. After all costs (production and others), providing developing nations a “kitty” and handing over $100 million to the CBF, FIFA kept a cool $338 million.

Now imagine what monies will be earned from 48 nations in the World Cup!

There are pros and cons to this proposed new format.

Pros

You bring the excitement to other countries who have never participated as they are given exposure.
 
The game will keep even more people enthralled during the World Cup (as if they aren’t already).

I am not going to talk about the money aspect here.

Cons

The current format of 32 countries is fine. If you want to add, four more is fine. But 16! The World Cup should be difficult to get in, not easy. If you want more participation, then add slots for Asia, Africa, and the Americas and not Europe.

Why do you want weaker countries in this tournament? You dilute the competition. That is why there are the continental championships. That is where they qualify.

The group stage means one less match. How will this affect people who travel to the games? Two matches and you’re out?

If you ask me, FIFA wants to get more money from the huge markets like the United States, China, India, and the monied Arabian countries. The new home and away qualifiers for the World Cup has already added more games and increased revenue. This new one will spike earnings.

That new format by the way is already controversial as it eats into the club competition calendar.

But FIFA is a bully. It is the clubs that pay for the care of the players and not the associations. Instead of a happy common ground as the old format is, FIFA wants more.

Sure football too is a business. You need money to run it.

Thirty-two countries is fine. Thirty-six isn’t so bad. Any more than that is a joke.

But FIFA… if there is anything we have learned is they have been laughing all the way to the bank for decades.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.