Infantino defends World Cup expansion

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has insisted that the decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams was the right move. 

Following the governing body’s unanimous vote in favour of adding more teams to the competition, he said that the move is based on “sporting merit” and not on making more money. 

Campaign group New FIFA Now had said the expansion is nothing more than “a money grab and power grab".

But, Infantino made it clear that this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

"It is the opposite, it's a football decision," he told BBC. "Every format has advantages in financial terms. We were in a comfortable situation to take a decision based on sporting merit."

From the 2026 World Cup onwards, 16 groups of three teams will compete against each other before the top two sides from each group advance to a knockout stage. 

"This is a historic decision which marks the entrance of the World Cup into the 21st Century," Infantino said. 

The 46-year-old added the increasing the number of teams participating events will increase the quality of the nations in action and the competition itself. 

"Costa Rica eliminated England and Italy in the last World Cup, a good solid team and there are many other teams who could make it to the World Cup," he said. "I believe that the actual quality could rise, because many more countries will have the chance to qualify so they will invest in their elite football as well as grassroots."

When questioned about the criticism from European sides, Infantino responded by saying: “The game has changed. Football has now become a truly global game. Everyone is happy about investment in Europe, but what about helping outside Europe? They need to be open. 

"The key message from clubs I appreciate fully has always been don't touch the calendar, the dates of the World Cup or the burden for the players, and both these commissions fulfil them.

"We will play 32 days like now, we play maximum seven matches like now, 12 stadiums, like now, but give the chance for more countries to dream."

As for who will get more qualification slots, the FIFA president said: "The only sure thing is that everyone will have a bit more representation than they have."

According to research done by the global footballing body, their revenue stands to increase to £5.29 billion, which leaves them with a potential rise in profits of £521 million.