FIFA World Cup Expansion?

Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

2:30 PM - Oct 13, 2016 #1

Been floating around for a while now and starting to become more formalised as a proposal, the World Cup could be going to 40 or 48 teams in the future. Thoughts?
My personal views are yes overall (if only so that Oceania can finally get at least 1 guaranteed place), maybe go to 40 first rather than a big jump, and definitely none of this Group Stage Play-Off business, if it has to be 48 teams then either make it a Euros-style format to whittle 12 groups of 4 into a 32 knockout tree (most teams will be playing 1 more match anyway under the play-off format), or 16 groups of 3.
The 'one-and-done' idea seems like being presented with a slice of cake and being made to work for the icing, and also has the potential for an elitist 'slippery slope' with the highest-ranked teams getting a bye to the groups....
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Joined: 11:49 AM - Nov 03, 2006

2:35 PM - Oct 13, 2016 #2

expansion seems a bad idea, following the expansion of the European and Asian cups

I think 32 teams is excellent, they can play more intercontinatal play offs, that can make sense...

anyway not a system with best third placed teams,...they can make groups of five teams if they really think expansion is the future...to raise more money?
 
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Joined: 10:54 AM - Apr 05, 2012

2:48 PM - Oct 13, 2016 #3

48 teams does seem a stretch. Guatemala v Ukraine anyone?
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

4:57 PM - Oct 13, 2016 #4

I am happy to watch Guatemala vs Ukraine. One of them might even score a goal. I often go out of my way to watch such games, even if I know they will be awful. It's this kind of match that makes football interesting. Otherwise it's the tedious European soap opera of star-driven narrative, yawn; I think that if I was 25 years younger and just becoming interested in football now, I would find nothing of value in it.

I remember writing a letter to "World Soccer" about 20 years ago suggesting a sort of expansion of the World Cup and to balance out the allocation per continent. The letters page editor response (I think it was Trevor Brooking or Kevin Keegan or some such luminary) suggested that could never happen, and quoted Vanuatu vs Costa Rica as the equivalent example.

But you can say the same about any match involving also-rans, which in the end is most of them, and more so if it was a dull game. Japan vs Greece was very poor, for example. Costa Rica vs England even worse and more pointless And 2010 Algeria vs England truly abysmal. In general many of the teams are just turgidly making up the numbers, with little attempt to play decent football. That can be cited as a reason to reduce the number of teams to 8 or 4, since the others are pointless. But it's not about the quality... obviously!

BTW in my letter I also wrote that the "new" Champions League should/would go much further and become a Superleague with the biggest/best teams from across Europe, but I regret having written that even though it has proved an accurate prediction.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

5:01 PM - Oct 13, 2016 #5

Speaking of opinions from years ago, we've had this discussion already.
From 2013:
nfm24 wrote:
If you
want high qualify football then 32 is already pushing it. And to be
honest the group stage of the World Cup is not for you. Remember the
thriller Superclasicos of New Zealand vs Slovakia, Honduras vs
Switzerland, or Algeria vs Slovenia in 2010. This is where the
Confederations Cup is more exciting.

If FIFA just wanted to make more money, have more matches with fewer
teams. Bigger groups. Two legged quarterfinals and semifinals. Make a
global premier league for national teams, replacing qualifiers and
friendlies. Have the women's world cup in the same country at the same
time (but without timetable clash for TV) so they are more included as
part of a unified event. That's what I would be working towards, if I
wanted to maximise financial returns from international football. Even
if i don't precisely want to see that happen.

Fortunately I don't care about finance and I don't care about quality,
which is why tomorrow I will be watching Jordan vs Zambia on my own, on a
crappy betting stream, instead of watching Dortmund vs Arsenal or
Barcelona vs AC Milan with my colleagues, on a big screen in the pub.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

5:09 PM - Oct 13, 2016 #6

But when it comes to dedication in watching exotic and obscure fixtures, there is only one King:
TheRoonBa wrote:
I'm currently watching live coverage of Cape Verde-Senegal in women's
volleyball World Championship qualifiers, with Portuguese commentary
whilst at the same time cooking a vegetable curry.
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

1:34 PM - Oct 14, 2016 #7

nfm24 wrote:
But when it comes to dedication in watching exotic and obscure fixtures, there is only one King:
TheRoonBa wrote:
I'm currently watching live coverage of Cape Verde-Senegal in women's
volleyball World Championship qualifiers, with Portuguese commentary
whilst at the same time cooking a vegetable curry.
Truly a citizen of the world (Mrs. May would not approve).
Apologies for not going several pages deep to dig up the original, but it does give us a chance to open the time capsule as you demonstrated:
mattsanger92 wrote:
If it ain't broke, and all that...
I
really don't see the point in changing it. The current 32-team system
is pretty much perfect in structure (aside from perhaps giving Oceania a
guaranteed place as discussed in another thread). I can see the benefit
of allowing a few more teams the chance to qualify, but despite the
'minnow appeal' the World Cup is a tournament where you should feel like
you've really earned a place there as one of the elite.
Not saying that a 40-team tournament wouldn't work, but if they really
have to expand it (probably won't considering it is just an idea from
Platini right now), surely for structure's sake 64 would be a better
amount to go for ...
So apparently people can change their minds... at least I'm consistent on Oceania. Still think 32 is obviously a perfect mathematical structure and it shouldn't be messed with lightly, but if it brings more opportunities for different nations to get the World Cup experience (and not in a way where they just get to be one-hit wonders) expansion is a good idea. Maybe 64 is more appropriate for the Champions League group stages...
nfm24 wrote:
20 years ago... Kevin Keegan...
I'll tell ya, honestly, I would LOVE IT if you scanned a copy of that World Soccer letter onto here. LOVE IT!
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

1:46 PM - Oct 14, 2016 #8

I would first have to remember exactly when it was published. The only thing of interest about it was that the flippant suggestion "who wants to see Vanuatu vs Costa Rica," as a rhetorical question with a negative response, had exactly the opposite effect on me (at least), thinking "yes yes, that's exactly what I want to see!"
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

1:54 PM - Oct 14, 2016 #9

mattsanger92 wrote:
So apparently people can change their minds...
Some of us are much more consistent:
pieter wrote: (2013)
24 was not a good
number; 32 with 8 groups of 4 and the two best qualified is the best
system; if Blatter wants more teams from CAF and AFC, let us begin with
more intercontinetal play-offs; most European teams will not face much
problems qualifiyng against African or Asian teams... So they will have
to prove on the field they are stronger...
As for Platini:
expanding the Euro to 24 teams was not a good idea, 16 is a better
number (no best third placed teams, and other nonsense...)
pieter wrote: (2016)
expansion seems a bad idea, following the expansion of the European and Asian cupsI think 32 teams is excellent, they can play more intercontinatal play offs, that can make sense...

anyway
not a system with best third placed teams,...they can make groups of
five teams if they really think expansion is the future...to raise more
money? 


 Therefore only Piet is qualified to become a football administrator. 
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Joined: 2:58 PM - Feb 09, 2011

5:03 AM - Oct 15, 2016 #10

The recent edition of the European
Championship was one of the most mediocre, especially in the group
stage, and in my opinion one of the reasons was the expansion to 24
teams. The level of some of them was very very low, so, from a
spectacular point of view, I don't think it's an exciting news.
mattsanger92 wrote:
Been floating around for a while now and starting to become more formalised as a proposal, the World Cup could be going to 40 or 48 teams in the future. Thoughts?
My personal views are yes overall (if only so that Oceania can finally get at least 1 guaranteed place)
If they want to give a place to
Oceania, they can do it now, without necessarily expanding the World
Cup to 40 or 48 teams.
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

12:55 PM - Oct 18, 2016 #11

Luca wrote:
The recent edition of the European
Championship was one of the most mediocre, especially in the group
stage, and in my opinion one of the reasons was the expansion to 24
teams. The level of some of them was very very low, so, from a
spectacular point of view, I don't think it's an exciting news.
It might just be my dragon-tinted glasses or the fact that I got to go there myself for a couple of days, but I loved the Euros this summer. It felt very competitive (not many wins by 3+ goals), and IIRC each team was still 'in' the tournament on the last matchday of the groups. I like the neatness that 16 offered, but I can also enjoy this new format.
As for Oceania, of course they can do it now without expansion, just that nothing I've seen so far convinces me they will. It would be an ideal solution to give them a +1 or a +.5 in the 32-team format, but expanding the tournament is the next best thing, offers no fair arguments as to their exclusion.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

5:54 PM - Oct 18, 2016 #12

mattsanger92 wrote:
It felt very competitive (not many wins by 3+ goals), and IIRC each team was still 'in' the tournament on the last matchday of the groups.
Aside from some Ukraine-related pedantry, I would just add that nowadays particularly in Europe, often the middling teams make the scoreline look competitive by losing only 1-0 or 2-0 when in reality the game was a one-sided 4-5-1-tastic dull fest.  Germany vs N.Ireland, for example, is not really a competitive game.
You can't blame the lesser team for this, what else are they supposed to do, but football has reached the stage where low-quality teams can match the physicality and organization of the best teams - this is taken to be making it competitive, but they may be light years behind in actual creative football skill.
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Joined: 5:16 PM - Oct 31, 2006

5:52 PM - Oct 19, 2016 #13

I think they should expand the World Cup to 256 teams and get rid of the qualifying.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

3:32 AM - Oct 20, 2016 #14

Yes and just in case in future there are many successful independence referenda, there should be contingency plans in place to run with 2^n teams, where n is the number of zeroes Blatter wants to add to his bank balance.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

5:52 PM - Oct 20, 2016 #15

On this topic, the following historical perspective from one of the main men might be appropriate:

Ethiopian Herald, 9 Feb 1964
Ato Yidnekatchew Tessema, Secretary-General of the Ethiopian Football Federation and Vice-President of the African Football Confederation yesterday stated his disapproval of Ghana's suggestion that the African nations boycott the 1966 World Cup due to the fact that Africa is granted only one of the 16 finalist positions. In a telegram sent to Ohene Djan, Ghana's Sports Director, Ato Yidnekatchew said, "The World Cup is basically a professional competition. For the amateur African Football Confederation the three places offered in the Olympic finals is already a great step. We must work hard to deserve more places in the World Cup. For the moment let us preserve world football unity by accepting the decision of the legal body."
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Joined: 2:58 PM - Feb 09, 2011

2:03 PM - Oct 21, 2016 #16

Times have changed. Today I bet the CAF leaders would have a totally different opinion.I think fear of losing, non-amalgamated teams and exhausted players because of the long season are the main reasons why the group stage of an international tournament is often dull. Adding other 8 or 16 teams whose level isn't excellent might weaken the interest of the public.
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Joined: 11:49 AM - Nov 03, 2006

3:02 PM - Oct 21, 2016 #17

the interest of the public will increase as the income from TV-rights and sponsoring..
if they really will expand the WC, they can give a wild card in every edition to athe team with most attempts to qualify....first team will be Luxemburg....
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

7:47 PM - Oct 21, 2016 #18

nfm24 wrote:
Therefore only Piet is qualified to become a football administrator. 


pieter wrote:
if they really will expand the WC, they can give a wild card in every edition to athe team with most attempts to qualify....first team will be Luxemburg....

Once again the Benelux agenda from these corrupt administrators 
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Joined: 5:16 PM - Oct 31, 2006

6:04 AM - Oct 26, 2016 #19

https://www.theguardian.com/football/20 ... o-suggests

From what I can read here, 48 teams, with a first round knockout of 32 teams (!6 of which would go home after just one match!).

Absolutely ridiculous format. Travelling all the way to a World Cup for just one match.
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Joined: 11:44 AM - Dec 26, 2008

9:58 AM - Oct 26, 2016 #20

This looks to me as a qualifying tournament within a World Cup tournament. In that case I would say let's play 32 teams a qualifying round in 8 groups of 4 as preparation for the final tournament.
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Joined: 11:49 AM - Nov 03, 2006

10:23 AM - Oct 26, 2016 #21

long time ago some teams played only one match and travelling was much more difficult....
But I agree it is a ridicilous idea, a wild card is far more serious, because some teams will never be able to reach the final round.... 
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

10:45 AM - Oct 26, 2016 #22

Hmm, tempting to pan this immediately, but there is some scope for this to be interesting, even if it still seems like just an unfinished idea from the back of an envelope.

This format is basically the same as having 16 "automatic" qualifiers (group winners say) and 16 teams qualifying after playoffs (group runners-up say), which is not too different from the current setup. The major differences being a shift in balance (currently more automatic, fewer playoffs) and also a change in timing, since previously the playoffs were mostly continental, and played months before the finals. Critics can say it's just trying to fool teams 33-48 into thinking they "made it" into the big party, even if they are kicked out before the bar opens.

The aspect of it which *could* be interesting is the scope for continental breakdown to be decided on actual playing strength, if the playoff (preliminary round) pairings are genuinely intercontinental, just as Piet has always advocated. If they are intercontinental, then this new system could allow more of a meritocracy in terms of continental allocation in the 32-team groups. In the current system, the continental allocation is defined at the start by administrators. But with the new system, for example, suppose of the 48 "finalists", 10 African teams are included - these play the preliminary round (unless one or more is in the top 16 seeds) and so there could be anywhere from zero to ten African teams in the groups, depending on how good they are. Whereas in the current system, 10 African teams playoff in pairs, producing exactly 5 finalists - no matter how strong/weak they are.

In this way, the new format could give a more genuine (or "fair") representation of continents.

However, because of the use of a straight knockout, this potential improvement is highly sensitive to the luck of the draw in the prelim round... teams 17-48 in the world paired against each other is unlikely to yield a genuine 17-32 strongest set of winners. And besides, knowing FIFA, there will more likely be an attempt to fudge through a certain number from each continent into the main 32 (groups) regardless...
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

10:48 AM - Oct 26, 2016 #23

nfm24 wrote:
In this way, the new format could give a more genuine (or "fair") representation of continents.
Although of course, one can think of it partly as just shifting the problem to deciding the allocation of 48 teams instead of 32.   Problem of the points...
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Joined: 2:58 PM - Feb 09, 2011

2:17 PM - Oct 26, 2016 #24

Don't worry, Mark and Neil: even if there were 48 or 62 teams, Scotland wouldn't manage to qualify anyhow...
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

4:14 PM - Oct 26, 2016 #25

Yes, it isn't actually possible to set the bar low enough for us to jump over it. Even if we did, we would only follow a typical trajectory of losing dismally to [insert unexpectedly competent Latin American team here], drawing drably with [insert uninspiring also-ran here] and then mustering a heroic but ultimately futile win over [insert world top team here].

Boo football. Bring back the Olympics, we were quite good at that.
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Joined: 11:49 AM - Nov 03, 2006

2:38 AM - Oct 27, 2016 #26

do not forget you are the best at the Highland Games
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Joined: 2:58 PM - Feb 09, 2011

3:52 AM - Oct 28, 2016 #27

Pieter, don't tease Scotland. Remember that, if Belgium managed to win its only important football title (the 1920 Olympic Games), the credit for that success belonged also to the Scottish coach William Maxwell
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

4:22 PM - Oct 28, 2016 #28

nfm24 wrote:
Yes, it isn't actually possible to set the bar low enough for us to jump over it.
You don't have to worry any more, Scott Brown's just come out of retirement. And please don't feel underappreciated, you did a superb job of plant-watering this summer while the rest of the British Isles were in France this summer, and you got the chance to have the biggest empty in Scottish history... Chad Hogan optional.
Back on topic though, I think there should be some sort of base to ensure each continent is guaranteed some participants, beyond that maybe there is room to have a few more merit-based qualifiers. I'm just not sold on the one-and-done approach being proposed. National team fans use the tournament draws to build up excitment, the ones who want to make a real tour of it plan ahead for the Group Stage at least (e.g. Wales this summer knew for half a year that they'd be going Bordeaux > Lens > Toulouse).
Maybe if the 33-48 teams drop into a 'plate' style section of the World Cup (or to keep it in formal terms, a series of Groups / Play-Offs culminating in the 33rd/34th Place Match) there could be a chance for the Preliminary Round? Other sports do this sort of thing for their tournaments (as in playing matches to decide every single position in the tournament), and out of practicality/completeness ConIFA and the IGA also use it.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

5:51 PM - Oct 28, 2016 #29

mattsanger92 wrote:
I think there should be some sort of base to ensure each continent is guaranteed some participants,
Well yes presumably the 16 teams seeded direct to the group stage would be split in a vaguely "fair" continental manner.  Or perhaps FIFA will use one of their fudge through the sponsors' preferred markets "ranking" solutions.  Anyway each continent will have to generate its qualifiers in a 2-tier way, as either direct qualifiers (seeds) or playoff teams  (possibly continental playoffs will be needed just to decide which is which). The arguments about how many places each continent has allocated will just continue over the division of both the 16 seeds and the other 32 playoffees...  
As a specific example, they can do something like was outlined in another old thread where we discussed similar formats*puts on tin hat in preparation for retaliatory consistency checks*It
seems most of us were in favour of more intercontinental playoffs.  My
proposal had 20 seeds and 24 playoffees, instead of the FIFA 16/32
version.  Fairly arbitrary numbers though.   Somehow neither of the two postulated anti-clasicos
Ukraine-Guatemala or Vanuatu-Costa Rica were in my fixtures. 
Quite a fun thread that was, good contributions all round, with the inevitable conclusion.  Interesting that it all went quiet as soon as I suggested selling the format to FIFA....   who cashed in? 
I still think the playoffs idea itself is perfectly good, if they are
intercontinental and fair.  The common objection seems to be the attachment of
these playoffs to the main event, i.e. having one more game "inflating"
the tournament.  But then again, a
lot of teams travel out to play just one game - but normally these games
are
the warmup friendlies, not part of the event.  
I agree with what you said about planning for the fans but to some extent this applies also to those booking ahead for the KO rounds - e.g. not too many Wales fans planned for the semis in advance, and they had to buy up a lot of surplus tickets from the over-optimistic Englanders.
mattsanger92 wrote:
You don't have to worry any more, Scott Brown's just come out
I fail to see the correlation.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

7:32 PM - Oct 28, 2016 #30

Excerpt from interview with Sir Stanley Rous, "World Soccer" Feb 1979
> "Are you in favour of 24 teams in the finals?"
SR: "Certainly not. It is a hopeless idea for several reasons. Let us assume that Spain will be able to stage a tournament with 24 countries, but I am sure that Colombia won't be capable of doing the same in 1986. We cannot change the number of finalists to suit the host country.  And in my view, football must pay for itself.  It is all very well to obtain revenue from other sources, but a World Cup must be self-supporting through the gate receipts."In Argentina, they managed to fill the stadiums for unimportant matches, but with 24 teams, the number of this type of game will go up - will the Spanish public be interested in, let's say, watching Nigeria against Bulgaria?  I well remember the occasion when England played Hungary in Chile, and there were around 2000 in the stadium. Out of those, 1999 were listening to their transistor radios, where commentaries of other games were relayed.  And we must not forget the qualifying competition either!  If everyone will get into the finals - they are even talking about 'inviting' teams! - there will be no interest left in the qualifying competition. That's two years without any real competitive football - all for the sake of two extra long unnecessary weeks in Spain.No, I would have only eight teams in the finals, not unlike the forthcoming European Championship.  By all means arrive at 16 finalists, then have an extra home and away round of matches to halve that number, imagine the excitement these games would create.  The stadiums would be full, and the World Cup itself would feature only the eight strongest teams.
...>"What do you think of present-day football?"SR: "It's all too defensive, predictable. Every game has the same pattern. A forward pass is inevitably followed by a back pass.
So we can add Nigeria-Bulgaria to the list of canonical anti-clasicos (clearly Rous did not predict 1994 and 1998...)
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

7:46 AM - Oct 29, 2016 #31

nfm24 wrote:
I agree with what you said about planning for the fans but to some extent this applies also to those booking ahead for the KO rounds - e.g. not too many Wales fans planned for the semis in advance, and they had to buy up a lot of surplus tickets from the over-optimistic Englanders.
I think it just comes back to having some sort of base: if a Wales fan was planning to go to France this summer, progression to the Second Round purely on numbers is more likely than not, but nowhere near a guarantee, so it's nice to know a few guaranteed matches well in advance. If you're staying beyond the groups you're clearly doing so with the surplus time/money to be a bit more flexible for the next round.
It's why I don't think the 3rd-Place Qualifiers isn't as ruinous as some people made out, not that I have any experience in that area but I'd presume it adds to the sense of adventure that a knockout round would presumably bring to a 'fan tour', and it wasn't as though previous tournaments had one set path from the groups. In Euro 2012, someone like Italy could go into their last match of the group knowing their next match (on 5-6 day's notice) could be in Donetsk if they came 1st, Kiev if they came 2nd, and non-existent if they were eliminated.
Granted the Euro 2016 approach adds more potential variables for teams that don't finish in the top 2, but before this tournament they didn't have the chance to be in the next round anyway. And once a team has a place in the bracket they know exactly where they will be heading for each subsequent stage if they get there...
Also, Rous is some kind of prophet for predicting the 1986 tournament not being hosted by Colombia, not so much for everything else (unless you count his anti-classico moment). The Euro 2016 Qualifiers were facing the same criticisms before a ball had even been kicked, but it turned out that it injected everyone below the top tier of national teams with a healthy dose of confidence, and we had one of the most interesting campaigns in living memory. And thanks to the Netherlands, it was not the procession that some thought it might be...And the attendances of those Nigeria v Bulgaria matches? 44,132 and a near-capacity 45,500, respectively...
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

3:39 PM - Oct 29, 2016 #32

mattsanger92 wrote:
The Euro 2016 Qualifiers were facing the same criticisms before a ball had even been kicked, but it turned out that it injected everyone below the top tier of national teams with a healthy dose of confidence, and we had one of the most interesting campaigns in living memory.
Yes Rous was right in the sense that the sense of jeopardy for the top teams vanished, so for them the qualifiers were mostly a dull snoozefest.  But as you say, the corollary was that it gave hope to the middling teams that they might actually make it for once.   Similar things happened with the South American qualifier system from 98.  In this sense maybe the proposed knockout round (as preamble to the finals group stage) would put a bit of that jeopardy back in because the top teams will be keen to not merely qualify but to do so in style, to make sure they are in the 16 seeds and avoid that tricky knockout opener against Burkina Faso. The middling teams more hope of getting one of the overall 48 places.
It's interesting that you and Rous are both concerned with fan attendances/experiences, albeit for completely different reasons - often the loyal fan agenda is overlooked, with schedules being milked for maximum TV money or to fit the calendar of the clubs.  Rous had obviously still not come to terms with the fact that football was (or would soon be) a made-for-TV sport with sponsortastic funds, and therefore rather less concern needed to be put into actually encouraging attendance.   Also I suppose the travelling away fan was less abundant in that era, particularly for non-Western European countries, so for stadium attendance it was important to capture local interest. 
Another factor could be that in Rous's day (which had ended long before that interview) football was the sport of the working class.  People without much money or time to go on football tour holidays.  Later it became more middle class and fashionable - hence more travelling fans, more families, more people wanting to just go along and watch any match as part of the "festival" (much like British audiences for Olympics/Paralympics - which can't be guaranteed in many other countries). 
We can see from UEFA 2020 that the touring fan's itinerary is really no concern of the administrators now.   How about thinking of the problem in reverse : what is the best format for a touring fan?   Something with a lot of games, preferably known in advance, in a few different cities but not too many, and with a good chance to "mingle".
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

11:11 AM - Oct 30, 2016 #33

nfm24 wrote:
Another factor could be that in Rous's day (which had ended long before that interview) football was the sport of the working class.  People without much money or time to go on football tour holidays.  Later it became more middle class and fashionable - hence more travelling fans, more families, more people wanting to just go along and watch any match as part of the "festival" (much like British audiences for Olympics/Paralympics - which can't be guaranteed in many other countries).
Looks like I've been category 3 then (for football and Olympics/Paralympics).
I also like how Rous suggested 'all for two extra long unnecessary weeks in Spain', when the interview was done around the time the average Northern European holidaymaker had started to do exactly that en masse... think that tournament might have been the birth of 'football tour holidays' as a big thing? Probably the first one where almost every team would have had easy access in reaching the hosts to send a lot of fans, 1966 and 1974 probably had travelling fans more as an inflated version of something that was still a niche...
nfm24 wrote:
We can see from UEFA 2020 that the touring fan's itinerary is really no
concern of the administrators now.   How about thinking of the problem
in reverse : what is the best format for a touring fan? Something with
a lot of games, preferably known in advance, in a few different cities
but not too many, and with a good chance to "mingle".
Nothing seems to be formalised, but most news stories seem to suggest that all the host cities aside from London will be 'paired off' on geography (from the map it's fairly obvious what each pairing would be), and that each group will be hosted by one of the pairings. So anyone following the Amsterdam/Brussels group would have much easier time of it than the Wales 2016 route I mentioned before.
This may be overestimating the competence of UEFA, but you'd presume they would then encourage the pairs to co-operate closely to make it even easier to get between the two at the very least, like cheap flights for Copenhagen/Munich (German clubs already have some kind of 'free public transport with football ticket' scheme), maybe extend it to allow fairly easy travel across all hosts, even from Dublin to Baku. Then you'd assume they could make sure the group winners get to play their Second Round match in one of the cities of their group, if not: I guess it's just back to being adventure or something (although with more cross-continental flights than cross-country road/train trips).
I think as with a lot of things the best solution is some kind of balance of certainty and randomness, you could theoretically hold an entire major tournament in one city (as a lot of smaller tournaments do) and cut the travel uncertainty almost entirely (not to mention fantastic for 'mingling'), but it would lose the chance to give an entire nation(s) their opportunity to be a significant part of it. On the surface somewhere like Saint-Ettiene or Lens don't have a huge amount going for them in the recognition stakes other than football, but being a major part of a major event probably gets people even who aren't visiting to get a bit more interested. At the very least it makes a wider catchment area of the country feel involved in the event...
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

4:32 PM - Oct 30, 2016 #34

mattsanger92 wrote:
you could theoretically hold an entire major tournament in one city
2022 will be effectively that.
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

4:50 PM - Dec 07, 2016 #35

mattsanger92 wrote:
My personal views are yes overall (if only so that Oceania can finally get at least 1 guaranteed place), maybe go to 40 first rather than a big jump, and definitely none of this Group Stage Play-Off business, if it has to be 48 teams then either make it a Euros-style format to whittle 12 groups of 4 into a 32 knockout tree (most teams will be playing 1 more match anyway under the play-off format), or 16 groups of 3.
So if Mr Infantino gets his way, looks like my last suggestion is on, under a format we could refer to as 'ConIFA quadrupled'.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

7:52 PM - Dec 07, 2016 #36

Surely even FIFA aren't stupid enough to kill their golden goose.
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

3:38 PM - Dec 09, 2016 #37

Would it really be 'killing' it to go for that format?
As far as I can see it would eliminate any dead rubber matches (or the need for simultaneous final group matches, meaning each one gets to be broadcast with no viewer split) and would give all teams at least two matches compared to that play-off idea. For the big club 'burnout' brigade, players will not be dealing with a higher maximum number of matches, and once the field is down to 32 it's full-on knockout football. Again, the current format is as a structure almost perfect, but if an expansion is happening then this is one of the least bad options.
And just for curiosity's sake, I've given the allocation of extra places a go, so by continent we have:
  • Europe: 13 + 3 = 16
  • South America: 4.5 + 2 = 6.5
  • Asia: 4.5 + 4 = 8.5
  • North America: 3.5 + 2 = 5.5
  • Africa: 5 + 4 = 9
  • Oceania: 0.5 + 1 = 1.5
  • + 1 Host = 48
This of course, being based on a mixture of educated and non-educated guesswork. South America probably deserve more performance-wise, but I can't see a way for them to make their Qualifying system anything more than a pseudo-friendly exercise if they had any more places than that, unless of course they invite the Falklands and Antarctica as new members.
FIFA will probably use developing the game/large population/TV money [delete as appropriate] as their reasoning for giving Asia and Africa the highest number of extra spots.
On that 'golden goose', though, I'm always amazed at how much of FIFA's revenue comes from the World Cup, according to this it's 98%. It's not so much surprise in the amount that the World Cup is generating, but rather how little the other tournaments and competitions generate in comparision. I know a lot of them run at a loss due to running partly as 'development projects' and being organised under similar standards, but still... a combined 2% of all revenue...
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

7:56 PM - Dec 10, 2016 #38

It's not the format itself as much as the potential risk of changing a winning formula. Personally I am not against the proposed new format. I see it as just shifting the dolce of the qualifying phase to become the antipasti of the finals, with the interest for me being in seeing what the difference will be in intercontinental grouplets [as opposed to continental playoffs in November]. But the sponsors and TV companies might not see it the same way. If only one meaningful game is guaranteed for a given country, the bids might not be so high.

The main objections are that the new format have been
(a) lobotomizes the qualifiers
(b) dilutes the finals

I don't see (b) as a valid argument, as 32 teams is hardly a concentration of high quality as it is. A bigger problem would be more games in summer for tired players.
But (a) needs to be handled carefully to avoid a real drop off in international football interest between world cup finals.
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

8:42 AM - Dec 11, 2016 #39

nfm24 wrote:
If only one meaningful game is guaranteed for a given country, the bids might not be so high.

The main objections are that the new format have been
(a) lobotomizes the qualifiers
(b) dilutes the finals

I don't see (b) as a valid argument, as 32 teams is hardly a concentration of high quality as it is. A bigger problem would be more games in summer for tired players.

But (a) needs to be handled carefully to avoid a real drop off in international football interest between world cup finals.
Would each team not have at least two meaningful matches at the finals? Even if they lose the first one they can beat their second group opponents and still progress to the knockout round (even draw and hope that their goal difference is higher).
As mentioned before, this format doesn't add any matches to the maximum a team would face, it just removes one from the groups and adds it to the knockout tree, but with more teams involved the tournament's overall number goes up. Mr Meticulous seems to have missed that fact in this interview, there's only a plausible difference on the basis that 'no dead rubbers' means that one potential dead rubber becomes a meaningful match, therefore maybe half an extra match if we try to value the amount of effort/focus involved. But then in the same interview he seems to place the result of a pre-season friendly with Juventus as being of upmost importance...
I agree with the 'winning formula' part, as structurally it's near-perfect once the finals begin, but presumably they'd revert back to it if expansion didn't have the de$ired effect.
For lobotomizing the qualifiers, would it really have that much of a difference? The allocation of new places that I suggested would see minimal change in Europe (just mean a few more runners-up or play-off winners get through), South America would have a larger safety net but their 'league format' is fairly dragged out as it is (not necessarily a bad thing), Asia and North America would probably just alter the format (whether getting rid of the large groups will have an effect on quality (or if bringing more teams to the final round would do the opposite in the bigger picture) would have to be seen), Africa is pretty highly competitive regardless of how many teams go through, and Oceania would just be thrilled with the guarantee that someone not named New Zealand will make at least the intercontinental play-offs.
All in all, the number of finalists compared to FIFA's members is still 23% (48/211) under this new format, compare this to UEFA's 44% for the Euros, or AFC's 51% coming soon for the Asian Cup. OFC and CONMEBOL of course being anomalies that we won't include in this comparison...
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Joined: 5:16 PM - Oct 31, 2006

11:47 AM - Dec 11, 2016 #40

I think all anomalies should be included whenever possible.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

1:02 PM - Dec 11, 2016 #41

mattsanger92 wrote:
Would each team not have at least two meaningful matches at the finals?
Not if only one goes through from the first round groups of 3.   If the
top 2 go through (as seems to be the proposal) then yes there are no
dead rubbers, although there is the converse problem that the last game
might be between two sides for whom a convenient draw would suit both. 
More
generally, groups of 3 involve a lack of balance in the timing of
fixtures.  One team will play in games 1 & 2, and another will play 2
& 3.  The third team which plays 1 & 3 will have an advantage
in the amount of rest but also in knowing what is required.  The team
which plays 1 & 2 has a big disadvantage in the first round,
although if they do progress they will have had more rest before the
next round.
But these are just standard issues with groups of 3 -
another is the increased probability of goal-difference or other
tie-breakers, or one bad ref decision deciding things.    As long as
FIFA don't hire the CFU to organize, it might be OK.
Another
issue is the style or attitude of teams.  In a lot of the recent
tournaments there has been a tendency for the KO stages to be cagey and
defensive.  The new format would effectively be KO football almost from
the beginning.
I wonder if they have thought about spreading
the "first round" (16 groups of 3) out over the months before the main
finals begin, rather than attaching it to the finals.   E.g. use three
of the international dates from Jan-May to play these groups as a sort
of buildup.    Obviously this is just extended qualifying but they may
be able to market it more excitingly.
The lobotomization of
qualifiers over the 4 year cycle would just be the lack of jeopardy for
the top teams (read biggest TV/sponsor markets), much like the current
Euros format - with the corollary that the middling teams have more
motivation.  That's in Europe.
Perhaps the top teams will be
given qualifying byes and in future we could see some sort of
"superleague" of the top teams playing each other in competitive games
between World Cups, while the second tier teams and below go through the
qualifying groups as normal.   Sort of like an extension of the current
South American league system but kick out Venezuela, Peru and Bolivia
and add in Germany, France, Wales, etc.    (again this isn't what I want
to see, just thinking how things might turn out if money dominates
format)
Given the trend is to increase the finals, the new proposed format has a natural extension in either adding one more team to the first round groups (64 teams), which is perhaps the aim in the long run.
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

5:52 PM - Dec 13, 2016 #42

As much as I dislike the superleague idea (and the auto-qualifiers that come with it), I can't help but crack a smile every time I see Wales mentioned as one of the world's elite teams (even in jest), hopefully not just some golden generation fluke.
I like to think though that it won't ever get to be like the Champions League's proposed changes, there is some sort of underlying 'purity' in internationals (even the perverse 'vote-winning' decisions are presented as and can be on paper viewed as a global organisation trying to do a job for all its members). The closest it's ever come is the Play-Off Draws being seeded by ranking rather than actual group performances, or the recent UEFA Qualifying Draws where the nations of 'big TV markets' were guaranteed a 6-team group for that specific reason.
However I do see 64 teams as being a natural continuation at some point, 24 teams only lasted for 4 tournaments after all, and it would bring back the simple structure again.
For 'fixed' results, definitely a possibility (see the Euro 2004 Scandinavian Truce Conspiracy), but with the global crackdown on matchfixing I doubt anyone would be stupid enough to try and do something in a match with such high a profile and level of scrutiny. There's no rule against a Disgrace of Gijon as playing with a lax attitude would be natural to a pair of teams who have landed on a mutually agreeable scoreline, but optimism would hope that being at a World Cup, chasing the best possible result, and not wanting the 'disgrace' tag would drive players to avoid something like that.
For rests, not much that can be done, Pot 1 teams will probably get the extra rest advantage, but the World Cup tends to have the longest between-match rests of any international tournament as it is, with 16 groups and FIFA's probable desire to have no overlaps in TV coverage, there will easily be at least 4 full days between each team's fixtures.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

7:19 AM - Dec 14, 2016 #43

mattsanger92 wrote:
I can't help but crack a smile every time I see Wales mentioned as one of the world's elite teams (even in jest)
I thought you would appreciate that early Xmas present :-)
The
purity in internationals : the interests of the smaller members is to
some extent protected by the anti-democracy of every member getting 1
vote (regardless of size), but you could say the same of UEFA.  They
have to offer the minnows something to get their vote.  The problem
comes when the smaller nations become convinced that they are better off
financially by getting the trickle-down money from the overall greater
income of allowing the bigger ones to dominate.
Money should be abolished.  I will start by burning all mine.  Won't take long, one match should be enough.
About "fixed" results : if the motive and opportunity is there, you can't expect the teams not to think about it. 
Anyway
even if results are not fixed per se, there are still virtual dead
rubbers if both the teams are already through going into the 3rd game of
the group.  OK they would still be playing to determine 1st or 2nd
place, but it is unclear to me how much difference that is going to make
in the draw of the next round.  May well see reserves fielded and
phoney war in this sort of game.
About rests : yes I would expect
the top seed in each group to play game 1 and 3, getting the most
advantage, with 2nd seed playing games 2 and 3, and the lowest seeds to
play games 1 and 2 (increasing likelihood of to the above scenario).
There
would also be an even greater span between first appearances of teams
(or, more games to schedule on each day). Even if four games per day are
played, there would be over a week between the debuts of the teams
which play game 1 in Group A and the team which doesn't start until game
2 in Group P.
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

5:17 PM - Dec 14, 2016 #44

nfm24 wrote:
mattsanger92 wrote:
I can't help but crack a smile every time I see Wales mentioned as one of the world's elite teams (even in jest)
I thought you would appreciate that early Xmas present :-)
Thanks, but now you've caught me off-guard and I feel like I have to say something nice about Scottish football .
Err... you're #1 when it comes to the chronological list of FIFA-recognised matches, and without you there'd be no international football (or at least a few years' delay before Wales claim some of the glory), how's that? And for a bonus, you're apparently the most successful team of all-time in the Unofficial Football World Championships.
Back on-topic, the 'offering minnows something' is a bit of a catch-22, they can be accused of cynical vote-buying when they're genuinely doing something for global development, and the reverse can be excused in equal measure. So whatever the situation it's always in that limbo known as the grey area. That extends to the minnows deciding to accept a trickle-down rather than push for competing on equal terms, it's not right that they just take the easy money in exchange for being effectively walked over, but in their eyes they probably weigh up the pros and cons to try and make a balanced decision.
In fixing results, my main point was that there is still an advantage for finishing top of a group rather than 2nd (see: Arsenal in the Champions League the past half-decade), sure there's no guarantee it makes things much easier to finish 1st (see: Arsenal in the Champions League this season), but it's usually preferable to win, if you try to manipulate the outcome karma can often bite back in the next round.
If England don't concede a stupid equaliser to Russia then they beat Wales to 1st in the group and swap places in the knockout tree, no guarantees that Northern Ireland > Belgium > Portugal would be easier than Iceland > France > Germany (spoiler alert: in the Semi-Final Rooney cannons in a last-minute shot with a deflection from Carvalho's nether regions, then celebrates by winking in Ronaldo's distraught face), but on paper (especially where only 1st and 2nd progress) the group winners earn an easier route which is why it is worth fighting for. Maybe not 'full-blooded effort', but not 'sit back and accept an outcome which could be improved on' either.
The Euro 2004 situation had that freak variable where Italy would pounce on any loser of Sweden v Denmark, so amidst the conspiracy theories it could just be that neither team wanted to take too much risk even with the opportunity to get one over their big rivals, as far as I remember it was the final scoreline that was the controversy rather than the approach seen in West Germany v Austria. So the cagey matches thing could be a concern in a 3-team group, but at the same time it can also throw up (less extreme) versions of the second match in this group.
That mention of Group P just hits home how many groups there will be, although I'm sure some club competition somewhere would have it beat for largest number/most alphabet used in group naming. Maybe the spreadsheet approach of going from Z onto AA, AB, etc....
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

6:00 PM - Dec 15, 2016 #45

mattsanger92 wrote:
I feel like I have to say something nice about Scottish football .
As a Liverpool fan, it shouldn't be too tricky.
That mention of Group P just hits home how many groups there will be
Some
tournaments have had "Group X" and "Group Y" in a second round,
following ABC etc in the first round  (e.g. Santosh Trophy).  In some of
my research files I use "Group X" as a stand-in if I haven't found a
mention of the official labelling
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Joined: 2:58 PM - Feb 09, 2011

2:27 PM - Dec 16, 2016 #46

nfm24 wrote:
mattsanger92 wrote:
I feel like I have to say something nice about Scottish football .
As a Liverpool fan, it shouldn't be too tricky.
Liverpool won the 1983/84 European Cup with 4 Scotsmen in their line-up. "Reds" wouldn't have probably won the Cup that season without them.
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

3:54 PM - Dec 16, 2016 #47

nfm24 wrote:
mattsanger92 wrote:
I feel like I have to say something nice about Scottish football .
As a Liverpool fan, it shouldn't be too tricky.
I thought the discussion was more on the national teams, at club level Scotland also gave the world Rudolph, and his was the era I had to grow up in so the impact of King Kenny was a little more limited for me. Although I will give special mention to Gary McAllister, King Kenny mk.II, and, er... Charlie Adam.
Back on topic, European Club Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has muscled in on the debate. From the man who tried to help bring us (amongst other things) guaranteed Champions League places for 'historical merit' clubs, I quote: "We have to focus on the sport again. Politics and commerce should not be the exclusive priority in football."
Excuse me for a second...

Also, from Guardiola and now Rummenigge, what is with this narrative of saying that teams will play more matches at an expanded World Cup? Anyone with the simplest grasp of mathematics can tell you that 2 Group + 5 Knockout Matches totals the same number as 3 Group + 4 Knockout Matches. It seems to be nothing other than offering emotive pleas on a factually-loose basis of sentimentality and fear of change... where have we seen this so far in 2016?
Last edited by mattsanger92 on 6:14 PM - Dec 16, 2016, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

4:49 PM - Dec 16, 2016 #48

mattsanger92 wrote:
guaranteed Champions League places for 'historical merit' clubs
Good idea.  Therefore I expect to see Bayern kicked out of Europe and replaced by 1860 Munich.  They will play vs Royal Antwerp, and could face Cambridge University in the final, if they manage to knock-out Queen's Park or Wrexham in the semi-finals.
Obviously, only amateur players are permitted, and there will be no television coverage.  And definitely no penalty shootouts.
mattsanger92 wrote:
what is with this narrative of saying that teams will play more matches at an expanded World Cup?
Have they assumed there will be a second group stage with the 32 graduates from the first group stage?   Or is there just general clowning going on.... 
2016 is clearly the year for talking piffle and people believing it.
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Joined: 12:28 PM - Apr 07, 2007

5:06 PM - Dec 16, 2016 #49

What's also amusing is the Chelsea manager complaining of players being lured away by the spending power of Chinese clubs.
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Joined: 6:46 AM - Jul 04, 2011

6:10 PM - Dec 16, 2016 #50

nfm24 wrote:
mattsanger92 wrote:
guaranteed Champions League places for 'historical merit' clubs
Good idea.  Therefore I expect to see Bayern kicked out of Europe and replaced by 1860 Munich.  They will play vs Royal Antwerp, and could face Cambridge University in the final, if they manage to knock-out Queen's Park or Wrexham in the semi-finals.
For your historical merit clubs, can't be forgetting Wanderers, Renton, or West Auckland, the real OG's of being successful in this sport.
And I believe that 'Chinese Super League ruining the Premier League by throwing money about' narrative may have been started at the beginning of the year by some higher-up executive in the Premier League, probably Scudamore. Remember reading it at the time and having the same reaction as you right now. Sure those Chinese clubs are probably out-doing English ones right now in the 'ludicrous amounts for not-quite top-tier talent' stakes, but England would edge it in paying ridiculous amounts for the level of player below that on a consistent basis, so China have that plus a lot of historical badwill to overcome first in the race to become the best money-burning league in the world™.
The only thing that really separates the two leagues is history, the Premier League have managed to trade off of the traditions and history of their clubs whilst simultaneously ignoring said history when it doesn't suit their coverage, while the Chinese Super League and a lot of their clubs are still forging their identity (both metaphorically and literally).
For their anti-World Cup proposals, I think they seem to be banking on a mixture of Trumpish grand statements that the casual reader might not fact-check, and a casual reader's anti-FIFA stance. The big irony of course being that FIFA have despite their reputation been one of the biggest forces against football decisions being dominated by the ECA types. Also worth reminding that earlier this year Mr. "no commerce" Rummenigge was questioning the Champions League Final's lack of revenue in comparison to the Super Bowl...
The real shame here is that the BBC don't call this out in their story, they have an admirable tradition of being neutral in their reporting but rather than interpreting that as 'report what Rummenigge said then add that this might not be an accurate portrayal of the situation', recently they seem to have been taking it as 'must give all opinions the right to be aired equally even if they are factually bulls**t'. Then again this is the place that gives Robbie Savage a column and his own radio show...
Of course they have hundreds of football stories to write a day so you can't expect perfection, but something like this is more important to get right than the Loris Karius vs. Neville brothers Twitter war...
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