FIFA: 48-team format could see US$ 640m jump

MUMBAI: In a bid to add more excitement to the FIFA World Cup, the association president Gianni Infantino has hinted that a competition involving 48 teams could be the next step ahead. The Swiss-Italian also said FIFA’s in-house research team accepted that the current 32-nation format produces the highest quality of football.

In a 64-page analysis, the former UEFA secretary-general hinted at five viable options for 2026 Football World Cup, the first being the timing of effecting the changes. In the document, FIFA has concluded that the 48-team (16*3) format would appear to have the most tangible and intangible value.

The format would see extra knock-out games in a new Round of 32, which would ensure at least 80 matches are played over 32 days. This growth in the time-span appeals to broadcasters and sponsors and would help raise income, FIFA suggested. In another strategic plann, FIFA wants to schedule kick-offs in accordance to the playing countries prime-time rather than the host nation, garnering more viewership.

Taking the projected US$5.5 billion income from the 2018 Russia World Cup in comparison, the revenue could see a growth of a massive 20 per cent to US$ 6.5 billion. Organising more matches would also see a rise in the costs from US$2 to US$ 2.3 billion, but the potential profit stills stands at US$ 640 million.

The football governing body council meeting has been planned on 10 January. It has cautioned that the changes should not be financial and should focus more on the growth of the game and enhancing its reach and integrity.

Debates have already started on how these new 16 slots would be shared among the six continental confederations. FIFA also acknowledged that the quality of the game could drop by adding 16 more members to the World Cup. The 2018 Russia and 2022 Qatar World Cups are to witness a competition with 32 teams.

Infantino had promised a UEFA quota of 14 during his election campaign, and this new format is on similar lines. Infantino clearly pointed “16*3” as the most popular option in the times to come and said that the majority was in the same line of thought. The idea also supports a minimum of two matches per team- helping FIFA get wider viewership and reach.

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