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Reuters News: UEFA boss backs bigger World-Cup


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International Roundup

UEFA's Johansson backs expanded World Cup

Posted: Wednesday May 21, 2003 6:13 AM

Updated: Wednesday May 21, 2003 8:02 PM

SEVILLE, Spain(Reuters) -- UEFA president Lennart Johansson is in favor of expanding the World Cup finals to 36 teams in 2006, as long as the tournament can be organized logically with four extra finalists.

A proposal from CONMEBOL, the South American Confederation, has been accepted by FIFA in principle so the finals in Germany in three years' time could comprise 36 finalists.

But Johansson said on Wednesday CONMEBOL needed to came up with a way of reducing 36 teams to 16 for the second round.

"If they can find a format that is logical, that the public understands, and that is workable then I think we should support this idea from South America," Johansson said at a media briefing.

FIFA will either endorse or refuse the proposal at their next executive meeting on June 29 in Paris.

A number of proposals are being considered. One suggestion is that instead of eight groups of four there could be nine groups of four with nine group winners qualifying for the second round and seven of the nine runners-up. A system would have to be devised on how those seven qualifiers would advance.

Another idea is to remain with eight groups, four of them comprising four teams and four comprising five -- although FIFA are unlikely to accept some teams having to play one extra match in the opening round.

The other problem to overcome remains one of scheduling as the tournament cannot realistically last much longer than one month.

"An idea like this cannot be turned down without being considered properly. If you turn the idea down immediately and just say "no" you risk splitting international football and we cannot do that. I think we should try hard to meet this request," Johansson said.

"The South American confederation has proposed this, now they have to come back with a solution. If they do, they do, but if they don't then I don't see how it can go ahead.

"But in a sense, if we have a 36 team World Cup there are no real losers," Johansson, who is chairman of FIFA's World Cup organising committee added.

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