After the expansion of the 2016 European Championships, the World Cup is now set for a revamp. The FIFA Council has unanimously decided on a 48-team World Cup from 2026. The increased World Cup would see 16 groups of three teams with the top two teams in each group would progress to the knockout rounds.
Ordinarily I would be cynically calling this a money making exercise. More teams would mean more games, more fans and greater broadcasting revenues. Adding 12 more teams is rumoured to generate an extra £823m in revenue, which sounds a lot like FIFA chasing more cash. But the football fan in me can’t wait. 48 teams, 80 matches, a tournament 25% longer. An expanded tournament creates optimism in qualifying; everyone thinks they have a chance.
During qualification for Euro 2016, Albania, Iceland, Slovakia and Wales all made it to their first European Championships whilst Northern Ireland won Group F. Everyone thinks this is a devious plot by FIFA, but, in truth, the Word Cup has always invited more and more countries to play. Originally 16 teams competed which rose to 24 in 1982 and then 32 in 1998. One of the great fears of an expanded tournament is the addition of so-called weaker teams. Currently 11 of the top 30 nations in the FIFA World rankings did not qualify for the last World Cup in Brazil. There is quality waiting in the wings. So the idea of Moldova or San Marino rocking up at a major tournament would be very, very unlikely.
The elitist mentality of football fans is quite odd. We all loved watching Leicester winning the Premier League or Wales take the Euros by storm but now we are turning our noses up at smaller sides. In early June 2004, England played Iceland in preparation for the European Championships a few weeks later. England won 6-1. Twelve years later Iceland would knock England out of the Euros to complete their remarkable journey. There are up and coming sides out there, like Iceland, who are desperate to join the party. We need to stop being snobs and let the new guys have a chance. Football fans are quick to hate the idea but do not see the amazing benefits. 16 more games, roughly 800,000 more fans, a longer tournament for us all to enjoy. Sign me up.
Post by Tough Tackler – @thetoughtackler (www.toughtackler.co.uk)