Tuesday, January 10, 2017

FIFA Going to 48 Teams ... Winners and Losers

On 10-JAN-17, FIFA unanimously approved a plan to increase the number of participating teams in the World Cup from 32 teams (established in 1998) to 48 teams. It is my opinion there are some clear winners and some clear losers based on this move by FIFA. Based on FIFA's twitter feed, fans of The Game are not reacting well ... but it may not be all bad.


  • European Clubs: 
    • Between friendlies, tuners, qualifying, and tournament play, I believe European Clubs, and maybe more specifically, the individual players, are going to get stretched beyond all belief with this move. Even with 32 teams, Clubs have had to sacrifice significant portions of their schedule to accommodate (ultimately) FIFA to meet their requirements. A move to 48 teams I believe will compound this existing issue. 
  • Developing Countries:
    • While FIFA has erred substantially in awarding host privileges to countries that may not have the necessary infrastructure to host such an event (ahem Qatar), their move to 48 teams I believe is a death knell to any developing country with aspirations to host a World Cup. Such an increase in teams will now create a market uptick in necessary infrastructure to accommodate these teams, staff, media, fans ... At this point, only true "1st tier countries" (as FIFA puts it) can realistically be considered. On the flip side, I believe the US just got vaulted into a top spot for hosting 2026.
  • The World Cup:
    • I am hard pressed to believe that quality of play is going to increase with 16 more teams involved. To get the heart of this point is the question of how does this move increase the quality fo play worldwide? This is after all one of FIFA's goals, yes? How does 18 more teams in the World Cup help this?
  • FIFA's integrity:
    • This move serves to once again hit at FIFA's integrity. This is so not because there is anything inherently unethical about increasing the team pool, but because it would seem at first blush this move is not to better The Game, but to increase revenue. Consider this, FIFA's first move after coming off a historic ethics catastrophe is to increase the scope of the World Cup. I may have thought a far more benevolent first move from a scandal ridden FIFA may have been more appropriate.
  • Sponsors:
    • To me they are one of the largest winners. In a brilliant move, FIFA's new president found a way to provide more exposure to existing (and in some cases wavering) sponsor support for the World Cup. As the footprint for sponsors increases in at least 18 new countries, so goes their revenue opportunity. 
  • FIFA's bank account:
    • It is estimated that FIFA will net on the order of $500 million in revenue for the broadcast and marketing rights for the addition of these 16 new teams. This to add to the $1.4 Billion (yes with a B) reserve they have. Let's not fool ourselves kids, this is the highlighting reason why FIFA (in my opinion) is taking this move.
  • AFC, CAF, and OFC:
    • It is estimated that these football confederations will receive some or all of the 18 teams that will be joining the tournament. This is a huge win for these regions of the world and frankly FIFA's best arguement as to why they added these teams. 16 Additional berths to the World Cup is substantial for these regions of the world who are working to develop top quality teams. My contrary question is, will they be ready by 2026?
  • Referees:
    • Another big winner are the referees of the world and specifically UEFA referees who dominate the tournament. There will be a HUGE (relatively speaking) number of matches that will be played. Each will need a qualified FIFA referee team to manage the match. This in turn may also require particular national programs (such as within the new 18 countries) to develop a more robust FIFA referee program to assist in accommodating the sheer number of matches. FIFA may have backed themselves into an area of referee development as well.

In summary there are some clear winners and losers with this move. On balance I think this is not great for The Game, even with some good results for referees. 

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