Sepp Blatter Wants Fewer European and South American Teams at World Cup

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Sepp Blatter Wants Fewer European and South American Teams at World Cup
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has spoken of his determination to balance World Cup qualification places to ensure all continents are equally represented.

At present, European and South American nations make up over half of the 32 sides who qualify for FIFA's premier international competition, and Blatter believes that must change if the World Cup is to truly live up to its name.

Blatter wrote in his column in the new FIFA Weekly magazine, via the Telegraph's Henry Winter:

From a purely sporting perspective, I would like to see globalization finally taken seriously, and the African and Asian national associations accorded the status they deserve at the Fifa World Cup.

It cannot be that the European and South American confederations lay claim to the majority of the berths at the World Cup (18 or 19 teams), because taken together they account for significantly fewer member associations (63) than Africa and Asia (100).

Africa, the confederation with the most member associations (54), is woefully under-represented at the World Cup with just five places. As long as this remains the case, African sides may never win an intercontinental trophy, regardless of progress on the playing side. This flawed state of affairs must be rectified. At the end of the day, an equal chance for all is the paramount imperative of elite sport.

There are some fairly major arguments against Blatter's idea, making it highly unlikely that the plans will be implemented anytime soon.

For a start, his ideas would be somewhat justified if Asian, African and Central or North American nations were qualifying en masse for the latter stages of the tournament ahead of European or South American rivals. For now, at least, that is not the case.

The most important point, though, comes in the form of the finances that Europe, in particular, brings to FIFA and its World Cup. Quite simply, there is little to counter-balance the giant reduction in TV revenue and sponsorship fees that would almost certainly occur were there to be less European sides at the competition.

Most sides in Europe with a hope of reaching the competition can provide at least one major star to attract investment—whether it be Croatia's Luka Modric, Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic or even Bosnia's Edin Dzeko.

Replace such countries with the likes of Jordan, Uzbekistan, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia though, and the competition loses marketability. After all, very few neutrals would tune in to watch a Jordan match vs. any lower-tier nation.

Financial revenues drive the World Cup, and, until that changes, Blatter's proposals will simply not happen. The onus must first be placed on countries from FIFA's developing regions to progress and earn extra spots.

If Asia could boast more sides of the standard of Japan and South Korea, the proposal would be justified and likewise for Africa. Raising standards must be FIFA's priority rather than devaluing their best asset to appease confederation chiefs.

It may sound unfair to some, but the worst possible outcome for football is that standards at the World Cup should lower, which is effectively what Blatter is advocating.

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