31 Jan 2017

Rummenigge critical of World Cup expansion

8:39 am on 31 January 2017

FIFA's decision to increase the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams was described as nonsense by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the head of the association representing Europe's powerful football clubs.

German football great Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

German football great Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Rummenigge, chairman of the European Club Association (ECA) which has 220 members and also chief executive of German champions Bayern Munich, added that power was moving slowly from football's governing body FIFA towards the clubs.

"The increase from 32 to 48 teams is actually nonsense, we had a format which everyone was happy with" he told an audience at the Spobis conference in Duesseldorf.

"The World Cup is a most extraordinary event, it's the biggest sports event in the world and FIFA must deal with this matter in a more responsible matter and more democratic," he said, adding that the ECA had not been consulted over the change.

This month FIFA voted to allow 16 more teams into the World Cup finals, starting from 2026, but Rummenigge said his members, who under FIFA rules are obliged to release their players for the tournament, had not been consulted.

"FIFA must get together with the ECA and questions will be asked," he said.

"FIFA's motto is 'we care about fans'," he added. "But they need to step away from politics and from finance and pay more attention to football.

Rummenigge said he did not want to get to the stage where clubs refused to release players for the World Cup.

"If the big clubs were to refuse to allow their players to take part, that would not be in the interest of the fans," he said.

But he warned that the clubs were becoming more powerful.

"At the end of the day, there are the top clubs such as Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the big Spanish and English clubs, Paris St Germain, Juventus," he said

"That is a shift of power that neither UEFA or FIFA can stop and things have changed dramatically in the last few years."