FIFA President Gianni Infantino has defended the expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams, insisting the change was based on “sporting merit” and not to make money.
The sport’s world governing body voted unanimously in favour of the change at a meeting in Zurich on Tuesday.
Campaign group New FIFA Now described the expansion as “a money grab and power grab”.
But Infantino told the BBC: “It is the opposite, it’s a football decision.”
He added: “Every format has advantages in financial terms. We were in a comfortable situation to take a decision based on sporting merit.”
An initial stage of 16 groups of three teams will precede a knockout stage for the remaining 32 with the change coming in for the 2026 tournament.
According to FIFA research, revenue is predicted to increase to £5.29bn for a 48-team tournament, giving a potential profit rise of £521m.
“This is a historic decision which marks the entrance of the World Cup into the 21st Century,” added Infantino.
The Football Association has urged
FIFA to consider the needs of fans, players, teams
and leagues and asked for more information on how the tournament would work, with Infantino admitting much of the detail has yet to be worked out.
The European Club Association (ECA), which represents the interests
of clubs at European level, reiterated it was against expansion. It said FIFA had made a political rather than a sporting decision. (BBC Sport)