Benefits Of Expanded World Cup Go Beyond Just Football

Today Fifa unanimously agreed proposals to increase World Cup participation to 48 nations, a move which has seen wide spread condemnation across Europe, but while the established powerhouses of world football will inevitably bemoan a change in format, it is the emerging nations from Asia and Africa who are bound to celebrate, as a more inclusive competition can only mean a vast improvement for their own footballing infrastructure.

Cynics will argue that this change is purely driven by Fifa’s less then scrupulous money men, a move which will see greed come before the World Cup’s own footballing interests, however, such arguments are dismissive of the ambition of the forgotten regions in the football world, the places where the increased visibility offered by Sports greatest competition, and the increased value of local broadcast contracts that come with it, will not only improve their sporting facilities, but impact the areas themselves.

Bigger Is Better

Detractors of this new format cite a drop in quality as an inevitable consequence, however, an increase in nations does not have to mean group matches simply become a formality.

Now that these plans have been confirmed, nations such as Honduras, Burkina Faso, and Panama, stand to benefit from investments around the tournament, and will have the opportunity to invest heavily in their coaching regimes and facilities.

With 10 years before these plans are even implemented, these countries have a chance to exponentially increase the quality of their squads, even if it is the next generation which will largely benefit.

It should also be remembered that these changes will in reality have very little impact on the demands placed on the worlds elite players. The total number of matches will increase by 25%, 64 to 80, but the maximum number of matches will still remain 7, while all games will still take place within a 32-day schedule.

The revamped competition is actually likely to increase the excitement of group stage fixtures, as a no draw policy is likely to see attacking approaches favoured over negative defensive setups, an issue which has certainly been apparent in recent major competitions.

Controversial decisions to award the likes of Russia and Qatar hosting rights, will actually become much harder to implement in an expanded World Cup. A larger Tournament will of course necessitate more stadiums and far more complex organisation, and as such, Fifa are likely to favour established nations with a proven footballing infrastructure to host future iterations of the competition.

Level Playing Field

Europe and South America currently enjoy a disproportionate number of World Cup places compared to their Asian and African counterparts, and an enlarged tournament will help to address the neglect which can be suffered as a result.

More qualifying places equates to more political swing in the backdoor politics of Fifa, and so with smaller nations given increased power, they, like the more established countries, stand to benefit from future directives and investments.

Fifa have projected that this new format stands to generate as much as $1Billion extra in revenue, and while that will be singled out at the main driving force behind the change, if invested evenly, such sums of money have the potential to change the standards and facilities of the beautiful game on a global scale.

Win - Win

Just as changes to the competition were greatly resisted before France 98, the new structure will not be fully accepted until it is played out in 2026, and it is perhaps worth remembering the exploits of teams such as Wales and Iceland in last summers Euro’s, before we dismiss teams before they have even kicked a ball.

The World Cup has always been regarded as a global social event, and including more countries is only going to see more nations benefit from the positives of the beautiful game. Smaller nations do not just stand to see improvements to youth football, and their footballing infrastructure, but the economic rewards have the potential to transform the lives of millions as well.

Posted: Tuesday, 10th January 2017

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