FIFA to consider 40-team World Cup from 2026

Decision to be made at later date, proposals to limit terms in office and declare salaries

Fifa executive committee member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait (extreme left) welcoming Wolfgang Niersbach at Fifa's headquarters in Zurich.
Fifa executive committee member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait (extreme left) welcoming Wolfgang Niersbach at Fifa's headquarters in Zurich.PHOTO: REUTERS
Fifa executive committee member Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait (extreme left) welcoming Wolfgang Niersbach at Fifa's headquarters in Zurich.

ZURICH • Fifa is considering expanding the World Cup from 32 teams to 40 from the 2026 edition and will discuss the proposal at a future meeting, with support particularly strong among Asian and African representatives.

No formal agreement on the matter was reached at Fifa's executive committee meeting yesterday but executive committee member Wolfgang Niersbach said it will be discussed at a later date.

"No decision was taken on expanding the World Cup to 40 teams from 2026," he said in a written statement.

"The Asian and African representatives on the executive committee were in favour of it.

"This matter has been put off until a future meeting."


What is important is to ensure renewal of terms. That is why we reached absolute consensus.

FRANCOIS CARRARD, who chaired the reform committee

The debate on extending the World Cup came as a corruption scandal engulfing the organisation widened with fresh arrests.

The World Cup had been a 16-team competition before it was expanded to 24 nations in 1982 and then to 32 for the first time in France in 1998.

The bidding process for the 2026 World Cup was postponed in June due to the corruption scandal which has centred on the attribution of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 Finals to Qatar.

What the Fifa executive committee "unanimously" approved yesterday was a programme of reforms. They include limiting presidents to a maximum of 12 years in charge and introducing "transparency of compensation" for the leading officials.

In a statement, world football's governing body confirmed it had agreed to introduce the reforms as part of broader measures in an attempt to restore credibility at the scandal-hit institution.

The reform committee, chaired by Francois Carrard, proposed introducing "maximum term limits of three terms of four years for the Fifa president as well as all members of the Fifa council, the audit and compliance committee and the judicial bodies".

Current president Sepp Blatter, who has said he will stand aside in February, was voted in for a fifth term at the helm of Fifa, having first won election in 1998.

His predecessor Joao Havelange was in office for 24 years.

However, there will be no age limit for aspiring presidents.

"The age limit by definition is arbitrary," Carrard said at a press conference yesterday. "What is important is to ensure renewal of terms.

"That is why we reached absolute consensus," added Carrard, who called the introduction of a maximum three terms as "realistic, sound, fair".

The reform proposals also include bringing in transparency on salaries. Carrard called for "disclosure on an annual basis" of the "individual compensation" of the organisation's president, council members, secretary-general and chairmen of both independent committees and judicial bodies.

In addition, the reforms call for greater diversity with the promotion of women "an explicit statutory objective".

Integrity checks will also be made "compulsory and comprehensive" for all members of Fifa's standing committees.

The programme of reforms must get the approval of the 209 member federations at Fifa's extraordinary congress on Feb 26.

The organisation's acting president Issa Hayatou noted that the arrests of two leading Fifa officials served to "underscore the need to establish a complete programme of reforms".

Alfredo Hawit, the Honduran head of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf), and South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) chief Juan Angel Napout were arrested yesterday in a dramatic dawn raid at a luxury hotel in Zurich in Switzerland.

The arrests were carried out at the five-star Baur au Lac hotel, a favourite of Fifa officials, and the same spot where seven top football executives were arrested in May on suspicion of involvement in millions of dollars of corruption dating back decades.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'FIFA TO CONSIDER 40-TEAM WORLD CUP FROM 2026'. Print Edition | Subscribe