FORMER world footballer of the year Luis Figo has pledged to expand the World Cup to as many as 48 teams if he ousts the controversial Sepp Blatter as president of governing body Fifa.
Ex-Portugal midfielder Figo also vowed to loosen the purse-strings if elected in May, promising to hand national associations most of Fifa’s $1.5bn (£1bn) cash reserves and channel more money into grass roots.
In addition the former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan star wants to revert to previous offside rules, hasten the adoption of technology for referees and introduce sin-bins for dissent.
Figo, outlining his manifesto at Wembley yesterday, suggested the World Cup could be expended from 32 nations to 40 or 48 and even split into two continents before a knockout phase in a single country. He added that extra spaces would go to non-European teams, a move seen as a bid to court federations in Africa, Asia, and South America who are expected to support Blatter’s bid for a fifth term.
“We not only make sure that we include more countries from across the world, but also enable Fifa to raise significant increased revenues that can be used to invest in the growth of the game,” he said.
Figo proposes targeting half of Fifa’s £1.6bn four-year revenue at grass-roots level and sharing £660m of its cash reserves with the 209 member associations.
The one-time world’s most expensive player, who says he is funding the campaign out of his own pocket, believes any player in an offside position should be flagged, whether interfering with play or not.
The 42-year-old is one of three challengers to 78-year-old Blatter, including current Fifa vice-president Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein and the head of Dutch football, Michael van Praag. He has received public support from Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and former England captain David Beckham.
■ Expand World Cup from 32 to 40 or 48 teams, potentially played over two continents before a knockout stage
■ Distribute more of Fifa’s vast wealth to national associations
■ Revert to previous offside rules and introduce sin-bins for dissent