Of FIFA’s 209 member countries, only 47 have reached the Word Cup Finals more than once in the last 30 years. The 5 African teams taking part in Brazil 2014, will be the same ones that took part in the 2010 Finals. Even with a World Cup made up of 32 countries, most of FIFA’s members have little realistic chance of qualification.
In response to member pressure, FIFA has taken steps to widen representation; both Blatter and his heir-apparent Platini have floated the idea of having 40 countries in a World Cup (potentially as soon as Russia 2018). Neither Platini nor Blatter will believe a bloated competition will be an improvement - however it will secure them all-important votes. Member countries are increasingly looking for a greater share of the FIFA revenue and are using their voting power to promote their interests. Despite our suspicions that Qatar was awarded the World Cup on the back of clandestine cash payments, we should recognise that the decision was at least partly the result of a desire to appease FIFA members and spread the World Cup glory into a new continent. Platini’s enlarged UEFA finals (from 16 to 24 in 2016) and his plan for a multi-host UEFA 2020 are part of the same political thrust.
So what next for FIFA? Although probably abhorrent to many, the next logical step may be to establish a ‘Rest of the World’ team in future World Cup Finals. There are some powerful political and financial reasons to suggest such an idea isn’t complete fantasy. It would be a way for up to 22 extra countries to feel part of the ultimate football celebration. Crucially, such a move would certainly drive up commercial revenue and TV Rights payments for the competition. Countries that will not be represented at this World Cup include populous countries such as China, India and Indonesia. Just a single player in a RoW team would generate huge interest in their respective nations. Given that the majority of FIFA’s members rarely reach the Finals, a push for a RoW team would probably not face as much opposition as traditionalists might hope. Depending on the make-up of a RoW squad, the concept could allow over 3billion extra people to feel that they had some national representation at the World Cup Finals. Currently only 26% of the planet have a country taking part in the Finals – a RoW team could push the interest level towards 80%.
How a RoW team might shape-up:
It is interesting to speculate about how a FIFA Rest of the World team could operate. Without enlarging the competition, it would probably only come about if Europe were to sacrifice one of its 13 slots. There would be a number of practicalities to address as regards representation. Players would probably only be eligible for the new team if they have never represented their country in a World Cup finals and if their country was also not taking part in the Finals.
Only a quarter of the World's 7bn people have a team at the Brazil Finals:
The manager would have to be appointed by FIFA and would probably take on the role for the short duration of the World Cup only (plus a couple of weeks prior to the start of the competition proper). This would potentially enable a high profile club manager to take on the task. Some players would inevitably choose not to make themselves available - giving up the 4-6 weeks required for the competition wouldn't appeal to everyone. However the potential for commercial gain would be a significant incentive – there would also be considerable political pressure from some of the member associations for their players to take part.
Clearly the idea would face opposition and I have severe reservations about the idea*. However, it would appeal to so many of the vested interests within FIFA that we should not dismiss the concept out of hand. The idea isn't all bad - after all, some terrific players, including Di Stefano, Best and Giggs never appeared in the World Cup Finals. There are certainly a number of financial and vested interests that might push for such a change. Perhaps we should start to get used to the concept of a World Cup with more World representation. All things considered, it might even be preferable to a 40 country World Cup.
*Although, if FIFA want to purchase the intellectual property rights, I will, of course, be happy to discuss further.
blog comments powered by Disqus