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European Leagues oppose World Cup expansion move

Gianni Infantinos proposal to have more teams from 2022 World Cup in Qatar has met with a strong opposition.

Bengaluru, April 17: FIFA's plans to expand the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 for the 2026 tournament and future editions of the annual Club World Cup has run into rough weather with top leagues across Europe strictly opposed to the move.

The European Leagues, an umbrella group for 32 professional leagues and associations from 25 European countries, is against the proposed expansion, which would add extra days and matches to the event.

Infact, FIFA President Gianni Infantino had even proposed have more teams from the 2022 edition in Qatar, but it has met with a strong opposition.

It may be recalled that even the South American Football Confederation had formally asked the game's governing body to expand the 2022 FIFA World Cup to 48 teams from the existing 32.

"We aren't prepared to make any changes on the calendar for expanding the 2022 World Cup," said European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson.

"We've already been flexible to allow the World Cup to be played in the winter and have agreed the dates, and we aren't prepared for the duration of the World Cup to be any longer."

In 2015, FIFA announced that the 2022 World Cup would be staged in the last two months of the year in an effort to avoid issues arising from the adverse heat in Qatar during June-July, forcing most leagues to heavily adjust their calendars.

World soccer's governing body are likely to decide on the expansion plan for 2022 during the next FIFA Congress in June.

Infantino also previously said that several companies were interested in expanding the Club World Cup from it's current eight-team format to a grander 24-team event.

"There is also talk about expanding the Club World Cup and we've serious reservations about that too," Olsson added.

"FIFA seems to be on an expansion drive. It's time people thought about the players - they need time to rest. It can't just be money deciding how football should be organised."

The 2022 World Cup will be held from November 21 to December 18, while the Club World Cup has been an annual event since 2005.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in Russia from June 14 to July 15 will have the existing 32 teams only.

If FIFA goes ahead with its reform process, then the 2018 edition will be the last tournament featuring 32 teams.

(With Agency inputs)

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    Story first published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 17:03 [IST]
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