News that UEFA are looking at ways to expand the European Championships to rival FIFA’s World Cup competition could potentially change the face of international football, it could also split the game.
The proposed revamped tournament would see national teams from other continents invited to take part; just as happened with the first World Cup tournaments.
Apparently the blueprint has teams such as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Japan being invited to compete against Europe’s top nations in 2020.
It is interesting to note that Africa has been excluded at this early stage, after all it was the African vote back in 1974 that saw Sir Stanley Rous lose the FIFA presidential election to Brazilian João Havelange, in the context of discontent at European domination of FIFA. Havelange canvassed African & Asian countries and ensured that these confederations were at the election to vote. He wooed Africa by promising to ban South Africa as a result of its Apartheid regime, something that Rous was not prepared to do.
Havelange ruled the FIFA roost until 1998, when he passed the baton to current president Sepp Blatter. Again the African vote was used to enable Blatter to seize power from UEFA’s choice for the Presidency, Lennart Johansson.
With FIFA talking about cutting back Europe’s power by not only reducing their representation on the FIFA executive – currently 8 people out of 24 – they are also looking to reduce the number of European teams at the World Cup finals from 13 out of 24.
A decision has already been made by UEFA to expand the 2016 European tournament to 24 teams, just eight less than the World Cup finals. UEFA feel that there is nothing to stop them inviting the top teams from around the world to the 2020 event; after all South America has been doing the same thing with the Copa America for decades; USA, Mexico and Costa Rica have been regular competitors at this tournament.
The initial decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar angered UEFA, and the recent failure by the Executive Committee to make a decision on whether to move the tournament is believed to have upset European clubs, who would have to put their leagues on hold to accommodate a winter tournament.
UEFA are being open about the possibility of expanding the European Championships which were launched in 1960. UEFA President Michel Platini has already stated that the 2020 tournament will be hosted by 13 cities.
With the European Championships believed already to showcase a higher standard of football than the World Cup, UEFA’s plans to invite the top nations in the world to come and compete at their tournament will definitely have FIFA concerned. It also confirms that battle lines have been drawn between Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, and who will hold the FIFA presidency in the coming years.
Footnote: There is a slight irony to the situation in Europe, as the two men credited with coming up with the concept of a world cup competition were the Frenchmen, Jules Rimet and Henri Delaunay. In 1946 the trophy was named after Jules Rimet who was by then the FIFA’s first President. There are some who say Delaunay was the man who came up with the plan for a World Cup finals and that Rimet stole the accolades even though he pushed it through to become a reality. In 2008 the European Championship trophy was named the Henri Delaunay Cup in recognition of him being the architect of the European Cup competition. If what some claim is true, it would be ironic if Delaunay’s trophy were to usurp the World Cup; even though it is no longer known as the Jules Rimet Cup.