Wed, Jan 11, 9:42am by Bren O'Brien
The FIFA World Cup is expected to become an even greater betting phenomenon in the next decade after FIFA’s decision to increase the amount of teams competing at the tournament to 48.
The World Cup is one of the biggest betting events on the sporting calendar, with billions spent on the 2014 version in Brazil, which featured 64 games, including 48 group games.
FIFA have now confirmed that there will by 80 matches from 2026 onwards with another 16 teams getting a chance to play in the biggest global single sport tournament.
The move drew plenty of support from the FIFA Executive, who represent many of the smaller nations who will benefit by now being included by a bigger World Cup.
“We have to shape the football World Cup of the 21st century,” recently elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino said.
The format of the tournament is now set to include 16 Groups of three teams, with the top two teams progressing to a knockout competition between the Top 32 teams.
Concerns have been raised that a three-team group could lead to collusion by two teams to ensure they both progress. In a situation where Team A beats Team B and then Teams B and C draw, Team A and Team C would play the final match knowing a draw would guarantee them both progress to the knockout stages.
That would cause a major issue around the integrity of results, and cause major concern from a betting perspective.
Infantino has indicated FIFA would consider introducing mandatory penalty shootouts to decide group games to prevent collusion.
While that would provide somewhat of a solution, there are concerns that it would turn the world’s greatest sporting competition into simply a test of who takes the best spot kicks.
The move will also take a lot of the interest out of World Cup qualifying, especially in places like Asia, which is set to have double the amount of teams qualify. Gambling from Asia on football is said to the biggest of any continent in the world.
FIFA have not confirmed what the future allocations would be, but Asia currently has 4.5 spots, and will likely get eight or nine.
It means that Australia, barring complete disaster, are virtually guaranteed a spot at the World Cup and that our often tense World Cup qualifying campaigns will become a virtual stroll.
That will reduce the likely TV revenue garnered from such matches.
However, an expanded World Cup finals will boost FIFA’s revenue significantly, with more matches and more participating countries to boost broadcast deals massively.
Football clubs across Europe will be at least pleased that the two teams who make the final will still only play seven matches, a move which does not increase the load on individual players. However, a wider range of players will be involved in the tournament.
FIFA’s own report late last year indicated a 32-team World Cup was ideal in terms of the competitive set-up and giving each team an even chance of qualifying for the knockout stage.
But it appears the opportunity to grow participation, and grow revenue, is too much for FIFA to resist.
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