January 6 – German FA (DFB) president Reinhard Grindel has re-iterated his country’s opposition to FIFA expanding the number of teams at the World Cup finals, a decision that is expected to be taken in principle at next week’s FIFA Council session in Zurich before ratification by the full FIFA Congress later this year.
Council members and FIFA’s national associations have been digesting a document outlining four different formats, with 48 teams the personal preference of FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
But Grindel said the DFB believed the ‘tried and tested’ 32-team format was still the best and has warned against a hasty decision.
“The member associations only received the FIFA factsheet, which outlines the four alternative formats that are currently up for discussion, just before Christmas,” Grindel said. “What we need now is a broad debate within the associations and confederations. A decision must not be taken in haste.”
Grindel said that each of the four FIFA proposals – two that would see the number of team increase to 40 teams and two that would take it up to 48 – had serious flaws.
“At the DFB we are fundamentally convinced that the tried and tested format with 32 participating nations should remain in place,” he said. “Past World Cups have always been tournaments that have enthused players, spectators and sponsors alike. So why change it?”
While the DFB accepted FIFA’s argument that more needed to be done to develop the game in Africa and Asia, he questioned whether expanding the World Cup was the best way to do this. “If we overdo it in terms of the burden placed on the players, I believe that there is a grave danger, particularly in Europe, that this could lead to major conflicts with the clubs and the leagues,” he said, a view shared by the European Clubs Association.
He also said that he had “immense reservations” about the danger of watering down the tournament to an extent that it could become less attractive in its “core markets.”
Germany will not be represented at next week’s talks in Zurich following the resignation of Grindel’s banned predecessor Wolfgang Niersbach from FIFA’s top table. Grindel is a candidate to replace Niersbach at elections in April and said he would be making the German position known when he attends the FIFA best player awards ceremony 24 hours before the Council meeting.
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