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World Cup expansion is no more than a money-grabbing affront to the senses

Fifa president Gianni Infantino says it’s all about development but rest assured it is capitalism at its worst

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 9:12pm

Capitalism is concerned with just one thing: profit. Nothing new here, of course. If it so happens that in its pursuit of this net gain, capitalism delivers something you need and adds a little customer care and satisfaction along the way, then all well and good.

But not for a moment should we think that the system under which most of the planet now exists seeks anything other than taking your money from you, be it when buying survival essentials such as food, shelter and health, or the little luxuries in life like a Prada man-bag or a Lear jet.

Let us be in no doubt that capitalism will always gain the upper hand in its clear-cut take-it or leave-it, non-negotiable deal.

This brutality we wearily accept. Capitalism is ugly, unfair and has no room for sentiment. Yet since the end of feudalism, it has dominated and remains unchallenged as humankind’s pre-eminent economic doctrine because all the other offers are even worse.

But bare-faced lying is one indiscretion we will never except from our corporate masters. So when Fifa members announced this week the expansion of the World Cup to 40-plus teams, it wasn’t the revelation the competition would become so diluted with endless dull games decided by a penalty shootout that rankled.

It was the weasel words from Fifa president Gianni Infantino that the expansion was for the betterment of football, from the top level to grassroots, and will raise the entertainment and enjoyment bar for fans. What utter tosh. Even Pinocchio would blush at the size of this whopper fib.

This ridiculous idea to expand the competition even more will not help the development of the game nor provide improved competitive opportunities for lower-ranked nations. Instead, it will make a mockery of the qualification process for most confederations and render the tournament unwatchable.

Fifa knows this. National teams, footballers, supporters and corporate groupies know this. Sure, some fans might be hoodwinked into thinking they will gain something, the Chinese, the Scots, the Zambians – even poor old England fans will be happy to qualify for the carnival and advance no matter the substandard football.

So yes, if you like to party and embrace Disneyland fakery and don’t mind dross football, the World Cup expansion is a good deal.

But if you want good football – the best of the best for which the World Cup was created, well, sorry, that product will be discontinued by 2026.

Supporters know, just as the crony membership (much of it still clinging on from disgraced Blatter’s reign) know, this whole folly has been sanctioned because it is what Fifa does best: creating money-making power grabs.

The main aims are to increase revenue in order to fund the extravagant election promises of Infantino and consolidate his personal position – a sneaky move straight out of the Joao Havelange and Sepp Blatter how-to scheme-craft booklet.

You could hear Fifa laughing like a drain when it was advised to focus on restoring its reputation and credibility, and strengthening its marquee event, and avoid at all costs creating a potentially larger environment for corruption, largesse and backhanders.

This latest risible decision again demonstrates that the Fifa wheels are still being greased in the same old way, and all guff about Fifa reforming itself is not worth the paper it’s been written on.

Anyway, now the money has been secured – some £500-plus million(HK$4.7 billion) – expansion will not go away (another unmovable affront to the senses just like Qatar 2022 and Russia 2018), so Fifa now has to come up with a workable format.

The current 32 team tournament is already bloated. So quite how a 40 or even 48-team competition will work baffles.

Maybe there will have to be two group stages, the first consisting of the 32 lowest seeded teams to separate the chaff from the weeds.

This way, as mooted this week by perplexed pundits, the early group stage would see only eight winners go through to face, say, the four best from Europe, two from South America and two from the rest of the World, Turkey or Japan perhaps, in the second stage.

This way you could, argued some, have even 64 teams join in the first stage and see 48 go home once completed, leaving an intense, slick more competitive and exciting best of the best to battle it out for the prize.

The worry now is that having secured his mandate and secured the cash for his lackeys, Infantino will just usher in more teams under the same stale format, or worse, introduce a set-up that renders this once-great competition a confusing obese mess.

Still, that’s capitalism, Fifa greed and bared-faced lying for you. Nothing new, here.