World Cup expansion overshadowed by FIFA arrests

Baur Au Lac hotel in Zurich.

AN EXECUTIVE FIFA committee met on Thursday December 3 to discuss expanding the World Cup to 40 teams amid wider reforms – but the day ended in ignominy as 16 further officials were indicted on corruption charges. 

Dawn raids by Swiss police on the Baur Au Lac hotel in Zurich sparked a disastrous day for the shamed governing body which culminated in the arrests of former Brazilian federation chief Ricardo Teixeira, the president of the South American football confederation Juan Ángel Napout, and over a dozen others accused of fraud and other offences. 

The headlines were supposed to highlight a step forward in plans to expand the FIFA World Cup from 32 to 40 teams as part of a ´very comprehensive reform package.´ Reflecting concerns that UEFA, Europe´s governing body, has too many teams represented in the finals, the change would take force from 2026. 

Europe will have 14 places at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while Africa is next with only 5. The remaining places are shared out among the other continents with UEFA having a dominant lead. 

A final decision will be made in the near future, as commercial implications will be considered, but the move has wide support among members.

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