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FIFA

Fifa approves expanded World Cup for 2026

Fifa's ruling council on Tuesday unanimously approved an expansion of the World Cup to 48 teams in 2026, with a format of 16 groups of three nations.

Fifa approves expanded World Cup for 2026
Gianni Infantino. Photo: Michael Buholzer/AFP
“The Fifa Council unanimously decided on a 48-team #WorldCup as of 2026: 16 groups of 3 teams,” a tweet from Fifa's official account said.
   
The decision marks a major coup for the Zurich-based body's president Gianni Infantino who has made enlarging football's showcase event the centrepiece of his young administration.
 
The controversial proposal has faced criticism from some of the sport's most powerful voices, including warnings that it would dilute the quality of play and overburden already exhausted players.
   
But Infantino had in recent weeks voiced confidence that his flagship project would be approved.
   
While noting that a bigger tournament would bring in more money, the Fifa chief has also argued that more World Cup berths would help drive football's global growth.
   
Africa and Asia could be the big winners in a larger format with a rise in their number of places, currently at 5 and 4.5 respectively.
   
But in order to smooth over scepticism about World Cup reform within Uefa, it is likely that Europe will also see its allotments rise above the current 13 places.

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FOOTBALL

Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland

Three former German football officials and ex-FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi went on trial on Monday in Switzerland over suspicions that Germany bought votes to obtain the 2006 World Cup.

Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The three defendants have indicated that they will not be present at the hearing in Bellinzona for a variety of reasons, including fear of travelling because of coronavirus contagion.

Swiss Linsi, 70, former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Wolfgang Niersbach, 69, and Theo Zwanziger, 74, and 78-year-old former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt are being prosecuted for “fraud”.

They are accused by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office (BA) of concealing from the DFB the true destination of a transfer of 6.7 million euros ($7.6 million today), paid in 2005 by the organising committee to former Adidas boss, the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, via FIFA.

The case of former World Cup organising committee chairman Franz Beckenbauer is being heard separately because of the former Germany captain's poor health.

The investigation was prompted by a report in German publication Der Spiegel in 2015 that Germany had used a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros at the time) to buy votes and obtain the rights to host the competition at the expense of South Africa.

Beckenbauer is suspected of having asked Louis-Dreyfus, to contribute to this fund shortly before the vote on the host in the summer of 2000.

Louis-Dreyfus was allegedly reimbursed by the German Football Association on the pretext of expenses related to a FIFA gala evening, which ever took place.

Zwanziger, Niersbach and Schmidt have also been charged with tax fraud in Germany and the case is expected to come to trial in the coming months. cpb/pb/td

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