The major discussion points have already been settled before delegates gather for the 73rd FIFA Congress in the Rwandan capital of Kigali on Thursday, including the format for the 2026 Soccer World Cup and Gianni Infantino’s next term as president.
Incumbent Infantino will stand unopposed making his re-election a formality, even if he is not universally popular among member associations for a range of reasons, including pushing for a failed plan to play the World Cup every two years.
Instead there will be an expanded finals that will feature 48 teams at the 2026 event co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, with a format that will see 104 matches played, up from 64, to bolster FIFA’s already burgeoning revenues.
It will mean more funding for poorer member associations, who will each receive a minimum of $8-million for the cycle between 2023-26.
FIFA announced in December that its projected revenue would rise to $11-billion for this next cycle, a jump from $7.5-billion in the period up to 2022.
That has masked to some degree the controversies around his first seven years in office, including issues surrounding the Qatar World Cup.
The tournament in the desert state led to a significant amount of political discussion around the host’s treatment of migrant labour, its approach to LGBT rights and FIFA’s threats to penalise players for political statements.
This included the banning of the anti-discrimination ‘One Love’ armband which drew criticism from a number of quarters.
The Norwegian football federation has tabled a proposal to discuss on Thursday “whether it (FIFA) has fulfilled its responsibility to remedy (issues) related to the 2022 World Cup, including an investigation into World Cup-related deaths and injuries.”
FIFA has previously spoken about setting up a legacy fund to assist and compensate migrant workers who helped build the stadiums and other infrastructure for the World Cup, but as yet no concrete plans have been revealed.
While there may be some nations who symbolically abstain from the presidential vote, Infantino is expected to receive widespread support.
He is expected to use his address to delegates to highlight his successes, but whether he will also address concerns around the tournament in Qatar remains to be seen.
The format for the expanded World Cup was settled by the FIFA Council on Tuesday as they stuck with four teams in a pool after a proposal for 16 groups of three nations was shot down over fears of collusion in the final group game. The number of pools will increase from eight to 12.
FIFA also confirmed a 32-team Club World Cup will be played every four years from June 2025, the current version, an annual competition with seven teams, will be discontinued after 2023, with a new yearly club competition approved from 2024.
A revised international calendar has also been announced with nine-day windows in March and June with two games each, a 16-day window for four matches in September-October followed by another nine-day two-match window in November.