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SBD Global/October 29, 2013/International Football

UEFA President Michel Platini Outlines Plan To Increase World Cup Field From 32 To 40 Teams

UEFA President Michel Platini "wants to expand the World Cup finals from 32 to 40 teams in the most significant change to the tournament’s format in two decades," according to Matt Dickinson of the LONDON TIMES. Platini said that he is "confident his proposal will be voted through" by FIFA. Platini: "It’s good for everybody." Platini has "already conducted a study into the expansion which, he says, shows that the tournament would need only an extra three days from the present 31 to accommodate an additional group game." His "unexpected move is a direct response to pressure" from FIFA President Sepp Blatter to cut the number of European teams "in favour of Africa and Asia." Blatter "recently spoke of Africa, which has five finalists from 54 nations, being 'woefully under-represented' compared with Europe, which has 13 finalists out of 53." With what he "regards as a neat political sidestep," Platini expects Blatter to find it impossible to "resist his idea to ­increase the representation from every continent, starting at the 2018 World Cup in Russia." Platini said, "I totally agree with Mr. Blatter that we need more African and Asian [countries]. But instead of taking away some European, we have to go to 40 teams in the World Cup. We can add two African, two Asiatic, two American, one Oceania and one from Europe. I support this idea totally." Platini added that FIFA had "grown by more than 60 associations between 1975 and 2002 and increasing the size of the World Cup would better reflect the number of nations." Platini's plan is "to be set against a political backdrop of growing tension between Blatter and Platini, former allies who could be rivals" for the FIFA presidency in '15. Platini: "Mr. Blatter speaks against Europe always. Why? Because we are beautiful, because we are rich, I don't know" (LONDON TIMES, 10/28). In London, Rory Smith wrote that Platini's expansion plan has been greeted with "cautious enthusiasm" by FIFA's executive committee, "with the emphasis firmly on the cautious." FIFA VP Jim Boyce said he would be “very interested” to hear the plan, but history "will teach Platini that there is a long road ahead if his grand vision is to become reality." Boyce said, “I would be very interested to hear what he has to say. It is not something I have heard mentioned but it is certainly something I would give my full ­consideration to, once I have the full ­details of Platini’s proposal.” There is, though, "a degree of scepticism about the Frenchman’s motives," inside and outside of FIFA. At the Zurich headquarters, there is a belief that the plan "is a rather transparent attempt to curry votes ahead of a potential election for president in 2015." From the outside, the plan has been greeted "largely as a ­further example that FIFA’s primary concern is not the good of the game, but its own bottom line" (LONDON TIMES, 10/29).
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