The not-yet-indicted leaders of FIFA (THIEFA) seem to have a new plan to save themselves from prison: destroy the World Cup.
THIEFA unveiled more of its ideas to support a proposed 48-team World Cup. Forty-six of the teams would come from the conferences, with berths breaking down like this:
- UEFA: 16 (up from 13, currently)
- Africa: 9 (up from 5)
- Asia: 8 (up from 4.5)
- CONCACAF: 6 (up from 3.5)
- CONMEBOL: 6 (up from 4.5)
- Oceania: 1 (up from .5)
The final two spots will come from a six-team tournament, played by one team from each conference (except UEFA) plus one from the host conference.
At first blush, this might seem like a way for THIEFA to ensure the biggest countries (and, thus, the biggest TV markets) make the World Cup every time. And, if THIEFA operated as an actual business all of the time, that might be the case.
Does THIEFA operate as an actual business or does it operate as a front for a global criminal enterprise?
You tell me.
Sepp Blatter (and Jerome Valcke and Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer and…) maintained power by bribing small countries with extra games and money. Voting as blocs, these countries gave THIEFA leaders unrivaled power; They couldn’t be voted out, they couldn’t be punished and they had access to countries with incredibly weak governments.
So who benefits from this larger tournament?
Traditional powers and large countries already are more likely to make the World Cup – qualifications are set up to their benefit (with the possible exception of CONMEBOL as that place is the definition of cutthroat!). They don’t like sending their players to San Marino, St. Kitts and the like, either, because it just adds to the chance of injury with little return.
The smallest countries again benefit. This means they will get more games and that they will have more chances to qualify for a World Cup. After all, how were the new spots divided? Did they go to the best conferences or did they go to conferences with the most members?
THIEFA pitches that as benefiting the global sport. And there’s just enough truth to that that they can say it with a straight face.
The truth, however, is that there is no “rising tide” here. Haiti won’t suddenly compete for a World Cup because it gets to play Mexico and the United States. Instead, Mexico and the United States will waste their efforts, waste money on travel and expose their players to needless injury (thus increasing the likelihood that players you want to see don’t make the World Cup, anyway) for games that add no real value to the process.
Unfortunately, this is just further proof that THIEFA hasn’t changed at all.