One of football governing body Fifa’s leading officials has suggested that the controversial votes to stage the World Cup in Qatar and Russia “may be the best thing” to have happened to the game.
Victor Montagliani – a vice-president of Fifa and head of the Concacaf confederation which governs North America, Central America and the Caribbean – said he believed the decisions had helped to provoke wide-ranging criminal investigations that highlighted the need for urgent reform and led to the removal of dozens of officials, including Fifa president Sepp Blatter and his European counterpart Michel Platini.
“If Russia and Qatar wouldn’t have got these World Cups, would we be in this situation now with an opportunity to clean the game? I think that was the starting point and the tipping point for certain things to happen,” said Montagliani.
“If England and the US had got the World Cup, maybe we would have had status quo. I’m just wondering if the authorities that have stepped up their involvement in the game would’ve done that if the choices had been a bit different. Maybe the best thing that happened in football was Russia and Qatar.”
That vote has been question as more than two thirds of the 24 members of the ExCo have since been suspended, arrested for bribery or charged with corruption.
World Cup will be expanded to more than 32 teams
Montagliani, who took charge of Concacaf earlier this year, also said he expected new Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s suggestion of an expanded, 48-team World Cup to be realised within the next decade.
“I think it’s obvious it’s not going to stay at 32 for 2026. I think it’s going to change,” he added at the Leaders Sport Business Summit in London on Wednesday.
“If we listened to traditionalists we would still have a 16-team World Cup. And there is a balance – you don’t want 211 countries in a World Cup either – but the reality is that the World Cup is such a strong brand and inspires a lot of hope and inspiration in countries.
“For them just to dream about it, never mind get a piece of it, provides a lot of groundswell in those countries to promote the game. I think it’s an opportunity and I think the president’s right to look at it. Should it expand? I think the answer is probably yes. I think now [the question] is: ‘What is the format?’”
Fifa is expected to discuss a possible World Cup expansion when its council meets next week, while Montagliani confirmed that Concacaf may submit a regional bid for the 2026 tournament which could see it staged across the United States, Canada and Mexico.