FIFA chief Infantino sticks to 40-team World Cup plan

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has again underlined his support for an expanded 40-team World Cup despite criticism of the extended 24-team Euro 2016 format.

Infantino told Germany's Bild newspaper in an interview published Saturday he believed that having more teams would increase the number of football fans worldwide.

The World Cup "is more than a competition; it is a social event which every one supports in a country," he said.

The FIFA Council will decide in October whether to increase the number of finalists from 32 to 40 for the 2026 World Cup. Opposition to the idea has come especially from the main European leagues.

Infantino said when a country competes at a World Cup for the first time it generates enthusiasm across generations.

"For the development of football is is therefore very important that we can bring in more countries and regions," he said.

Euro 2016 in France "is so far a great success" with matches "that were not boring at all" and "almost all (were) hard fought" and "evenly balanced."

Infantino meanwhile dismissed claims of personal financial gain as president of football's world governing body.

He said he had paid for all of his personal outgoings and "have always adhered to ethical principles in my professional life."

His comments follow media reports that FIFA had paid his personal expenses and that he had allowed himself to be flown in a private jet paid for by a Russian oligarch.

There had been unconfirmed reports of a FIFA independent ethics committee preliminary inquiry. Infantino said he fully supported the ethics committee and if necessary would provide information to any questions at any time.

Infantino also dismissed reports which said he had rejected a proposed salary, saying the issue was never about the amount but "how the process was managed."

He added: "The amount of my salary was always secondary. Once the contract is signed I will make the amount of my salary public."

In May, Domenico Scala, FIFA's former independent audit and compliance chairman, resigned in protest at a FIFA congress decision he said "undermines" reforms at football's scandal-hit governing body.

Scala was also responsible for determining Infantino's salary. Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported at the time that Infantino rejected a salary proposal of 2 million Swiss francs as "insulting." Infantino rejected the claim in later interviews with Swiss media.

Last update: Sat, 02/07/2016 - 12:28
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