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By Brian Homewood
ZURICH, April 17 (Reuters) - A proposal to increase the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams is impossible to carry out and does not make sense, according to the head of the umbrella organisation representing Europe’s biggest domestic soccer leagues.
European Leagues (EPFL) chief Lars-Christer Olsson told Reuters on Tuesday he was surprised the proposal was made at the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) Congress in Buenos Aires last week without being put to other stakeholders.
Olsson said a larger tournament would last several days longer, increasing the break in the domestic club season which the leagues had only agreed to reluctantly in the first place. It would also put more pressure on the players.
He added that the leagues had already made concessions to FIFA by agreeing that the 2022 World Cup could be staged in November and December rather than the traditional June/July window to escape the sweltering heat of the Qatari summer.
FIFA has already decided to increase the World Cup from 32 teams to 48, but only from the 2026 tournament.
The proposal to also enlarge the 2022 finals was made to FIFA president Gianni Infantino in an open letter presented by CONMEBOL on Thursday although Olsson said he had heard rumours about it two weeks earlier.
“It’s impossible, it’s already a break in the season for the most important leagues of the world, in Europe and it doesn’t make sense,” he said in a telephone interview, adding that an enlarged tournament would need more several more days.
“I’m a bit surprised that proposals are presented this way,” he added. “The reform of FIFA was among other things to establish it as an organisation where there was proper stakeholder information and consultation.
“There are bodies organised for that purpose so it’s strange to have ideas popping up like this.”
He said that presenting the proposal to the clubs, leagues, federations and other stakeholders “would have been a proper way to do it.”
FIFA did not reply to a request from Reuters asking for further details on the proposal and when it might be discussed. However, Olsson said there were rumours it could be voted on at the FIFA Congress in Moscow in June.
“To launch something now this late, and saying it could be decided at the Congress... it’s not serious,” he said.
“Another thing which should also be discussed is how much pressure should we put on the players,” he said, adding that they would go from their league competitions to the World Cup and then back to their leagues again without a break.
FIFA agreed in 2015 to a three-fold increase in the amount of money it pays to clubs who release players for the World Cup and the ruling body will hand out $209 million for each of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
Olsson said that amount would have to be increased for a 48-team World Cup and that the big clubs, who have more international players, would benefit more than smaller ones.
“Somebody has obviously made a calculation on how much income they could generate,” he said.
“All expansion of competitions will have a similar effect which means that the gap between the rich ones and those who have less is widening all the time.” (Additional reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)