The European Club Association (ECA) that represents some of Europe’s top clubs including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Bayern Munich, has slated Fifa’s plans to expand the World Cup finals to 48 teams.
In a statement, the ECA said, “The European Club Association reiterates that it is in principle not in favour of an expanded World Cup.
“We fail to see the merits to changing the current format of 32 that has proven to be the perfect formula from all perspectives. Questionable is also the urgency in reaching such an important decision, with 9 years to go until it becomes applicable, without the proper involvement of stakeholders who will be impacted by this change.
“We understand that this decision has been taken based on political reasons rather than sporting ones and under considerable political pressure, something ECA believes is regrettable.
“ECA will analyse in detail the impact and the consequences of the new format and will address the matter at the next meeting of its Executive Board scheduled for the end of January.”
It did not elaborate on what the political pressures were.
Currently, the World Cup consists of 32 teams in groups of four. Under the new plans, which were only released today, the World Cup would consist of 48 teams in groups of three. The ECA represents 220 teams from 53 associations.
However, iconic manager Jose Mourinho and Argentinean superstar Diego Maradona back the plans. The latter saying, “I’m delighted by Gianni’s initiative because it gives chances to teams that otherwise would start the qualifiers knowing they had no chance of getting to the World Cup.
“It gives each country the dream and it renews the passion for football, it appears to me to be a fantastic idea.”
The expansion to 48 clubs will still see the tournament completed in 32 days as it is at the moment, and the new system will begin in 2026.