UEFA not happy about FIFA's proposals on expanded World Cup
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 10, 2016 10:24 AM
FIFA President Gianni Infantino answers reporters after a FIFA Executives meeting in Roissy, outside Paris, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. Infantino says he's warming to a World Cup expanded to 48 teams but still hasn't decided whether 40 nations might not be better. (AP Photo/John Leicester)
GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer
NYON, Switzerland (AP) — UEFA is not happy about the way FIFA is pushing through plans to expand the 2026 World Cup.
Amid FIFA floating different scenarios in the media, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin aimed a barb at soccer's governing body on Friday.
"I read different ideas every day, so it is hard to say which one is the real one, if any," Ceferin, a FIFA vice president, said at a news conference after a UEFA executive committee meeting.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino was elected in February on a campaign promise to add eight nations for a 40-team World Cup. He then suggested 48 teams with an opening playoff round that would send 16 teams home after one game.
This week, FIFA suggested a preferred 48-team format of groups of three teams in a letter to FIFA Council members ahead of their Jan. 9-10 meeting in Zurich.
Asked how many of the 48 entries Europe wanted, Ceferin said the lack of clarity in how FIFA proposed to allocate slots to its six confederations was one of the problems.
"When FIFA presents us some serious thing and not just articles and interviews then we can, of course, answer concretely," said Ceferin, who did not commit UEFA to supporting an increase from the 32-team format used since 1998.
UEFA's unease about the process suggests FIFA's target of a decision on Jan. 10 might be missed. The next option would likely by early May in Manama, Bahrain.
Progress could be made next week when the confederations' general secretaries meet in Tokyo on the sidelines of the Club World Cup.
In other UEFA business on Friday:
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE CHANGES
Fans will be able to watch two games back-to-back on Champions League nights from 2018.
UEFA agreed to new kickoff slots at 7 p.m and 9 p.m. Central European time. Currently, nearly all games start at 8:45 p.m. CET, except some games start earlier in Russia, Turkey, and other eastern European countries, especially in December and February.
UEFA also completed changes to the entry list, how clubs are ranked and seeded, plus distribution of prize money for the 2018-21 seasons in the Champions League and Europa League.
The headline changes were made in August when the four top-ranked leagues — currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy — were guaranteed four direct entries to the 32-team group stage.
From 2018, only two teams will advance to the Champions League groups from the qualifying rounds involving non-champions.
UEFA also detailed how clubs will be ranked to weigh how much prize money they will earn. It covers 10 years of results, plus points for European titles earned before 1992.
This is seen to favor storied clubs which recently failed to qualify for the Champions League, including Manchester United, AC Milan and Inter Milan.
National champions who lose early in Champions League qualifying rounds will get a second chance by transferring directly to Europa League qualifying rounds.
An extra 50 million euros ($52.7 million) per season will also be diverted from Champions League prize money to the Europa League.
EURO 2024 BIDDING
UEFA set a September 2018 target to decide where the 2024 European Championship will be played.
The first deadline in the process is March 3 for member federations to confirm their interest in bidding.
Germany set its sights on hosting Euro 2024 alone when it made a deal with England, which will host the Euro 2020 final and semifinals.
A Scandinavian project of up to four hosts has also been suggested.
However, UEFA says while two co-hosts would get automatic entry to the tournament, it will give no guarantees to countries bidding as a group of three or four hosts.
CLUB FINALS VENUES
UEFA picked the Stadium of Light in Lyon, France, as host of the Europa League final on May 16, 2018. The Champions League final that season was already allocated to the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine.
Ceferin also insisted on reviving a bidding process for European club competition finals.
One factor in picking Kiev was to give Ukraine a showpiece match just before the World Cup kicks off in neighboring Russia.
"There will not be any more political favors in decisions concerning who will host the final," Ceferin said.
—Italy was picked to host the Under-21 European Championship in 2019
—UEFA increased total prize money for the women's European Championship from 2.2 million euros ($2.3 million) in 2013 to 8 million euros ($8.4 million) next year.
—Long-time director of competitions Giorgio Marchetti of Italy was promoted to deputy general secretary.
—UEFA will store all anti-doping samples it takes from players for 10 years to be available for re-testing.