Expanded World Cup will be a mistake, says Blatter

  • Other Sport
  • Friday, 09 May 2003

BERLIN: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has revealed he opposes a pending decision by the organisation’s executive committee to boost from 32 to 36 the number of countries participating at the 2006 World Cup Finals. 

World football’s governing body said last Saturday in Geneva it would delay ratifying a decision on a potential increase for the tournament in Germany until next month – but has agreed to the expansion in principle. 

Blatter, however, made his opposition plain in an interview with yesterday's Kicker magazine. 

“I am against 36 teams. The technical commission and the football commission (of FIFA) are opting for 32 teams – but the decision will fall to the executive committee,” Blatter said. 

“Up to now people have been talking about more places, but not about the consequences for television, marketing, the length of the tournament and the transparency of the calendar. All the contracts have been drawn up for a 32-team World Cup. 

“With this initiative, the executive committee has therefore clearly made a mistake,” said Blatter, who is fully aware that Franz Beckenbauer, the president of the German World Cup organising committee, is fiercely against a bigger tournament. 

Blatter conceded the point. 

“On this point I can understand the annoyance of Beckenbauer,” he admitted. 

“Thirty six teams cannot be the model for the future – the current format of 32 is the best.” 

The executive committee, meeting last Saturday at Geneva, put off ratifying their decision until a further meeting on June 28 and 29 in Paris and warned they would only ratify the move “on condition that a match schedule be drawn up that ensured the sporting credibility of the event.” 

The South American confederation Conmebol's idea is to split 36 teams into nine groups of four, with the leaders in each group winning through to the quarter-finals joined by the seven best runners-up and thus avoid losing at least half a South American place compared with 2002. 

The four extra places would be filled by two teams from Europe and one from South America. 

For the fourth slot the existing play-off between Asia and the North American football confederation Concacaf will be scrapped with both federations gaining an extra place. – AFP  

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