Football: Uefa's Infantino plans World Cup revamp

Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino.
Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino. PHOTO: EPA

NYON (Switzerland) • Fifa should look into staging the World Cup across a continent instead of just one or two countries, Uefa general secretary Gianni Infantino said on Tuesday as he stepped up campaigning for next month's Fifa election.

He also promised a bigger World Cup in his manifesto for the Feb 26 vote for a new leader.

The Swiss, who has been right-hand man to suspended Uefa leader Michel Platini for the past seven years, said the World Cup should be expanded to 40 countries from the 32 for the 2018 event in Russia.

Platini and Infantino have also pressed a plan to spread the European Championship across 13 countries from 2020. The continental tournament was co-hosted in 2000, 2008 and 2012.

Infantino said the World Cup could copy the idea.

KNOW THE ROPES

(Infantino) is someone who knows the business inside out.

REINHARD RAUBALL, German Football Federation president, on Gianni Infantino.

"Fifa should investigate the possibility of organising the World Cup not only in one or two countries but in a whole region, so enabling several countries to enjoy the honour and benefits of hosting the World Cup," said the 45-year-old multilingual lawyer.

Under his plan, there would be an "equitable rotation" for staging World Cups, with a continent that has held the contest having to wait at least two tournaments before getting it again.

The World Cup was held in two countries - in South Korea and Japan - in 2002 and Fifa said at the time it would be reluctant to repeat the exercise.

Deciding the 2026 World Cup hosts has been put back because of the scandals that have embroiled Fifa under outgoing president Sepp Blatter. Blatter and Platini have both been banned for eight years over a suspect payment.

In the election, Infantino is up against Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Prince Ali Al Hussein, a former Fifa vice-president from Jordan, South African business tycoon Tokyo Sexwale and former Fifa official Jerome Champagne of France.

Among major football nations, Germany has indicated that it is likely to back Infantino.

German Football Federation president Reinhard Rauball said: "I will recommend that the board picks Gianni Infantino as the candidate we want to support."

Infantino "is someone who knows the business inside out," he added.

Each of Fifa's 209 national associations holds one vote and there are no clear favourites to win although Infantino would have a head start if he were to capture the majority of the 53 European votes.

He also says he has major support in the Caribbean region, which has 25 votes.

All five candidates have promised to clean up the world body after the Blatter-Platini investigation and an US inquiry which has left 39 individuals and two companies facing charges over bribes for football deals.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline 'Infantino plans World Cup revamp'. Print Edition | Subscribe