Bigger World Cup is 'complete insanity', says Dortmund CEO
By Karolos Grohmann
BERLIN (Reuters) - FIFA President Gianni Infantino's proposal for a bigger World Cup is complete insanity, putting more pressure on already stretched players and risking damage to the sport's showcase event, Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told Reuters on Thursday
FIFA President Gianni Infantino proposed this month increasing the World Cup to 48 teams up from the current 32. A decision will be taken in January, but FIFA is discussing it this week.
"I am totally against it. It is complete insanity," Watzke told Reuters in an interview. "The World Cup is the biggest thing in football and should not be played around with."
He said players were already playing too many games, in several competitions simultaneously.
"Players are already permanently stretched too thin. For FIFA this may not be important at all but we as a club have to go against it," Watzke said.
"What will happen next? The next FIFA President proposes 84 clubs? Look at the huge gaps in the qualifiers that already exist. The qualifiers are at times so boring that any thought of a bigger World Cup is crazy."
A FIFA spokesperson simply said: "The proposal for a 48-team World Cup will be discussed at the FIFA Council during the next two days."
Watzke said the many competitions could prove a challenge for Dortmund as well this season, following the departure of key players, including Mats Hummels, Ilkay Guendogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
"In the last years we had a well-tuned team but this season five players, of which three are key players, left and we brought in eight young players," he said.
"We had a lot of respect for the season before the start and after the first two months in all competitions we are absolutely on target."
Dortmund are four points off leaders Bayern and top of their Champions League group, ahead of Real Madrid.
"Players like (new signings) Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor or Raphael Guerreiro... they do not know how it is to play in three competitions at the same time so this is a challenge," Watzke said.
"But we will play a good season although there will be setbacks, no doubt, given the age of the team and the three competitions we are playing in. That is something that cannot be avoided."
Dortmund are challenging for the Bundesliga, the Champions League and the German Cup.
Off the pitch the club is expecting another successful season, after posting a record 376 million euro turnover in 2015/16 that was partly driven by transfer revenues.
"Our aim is to break the 400 million euro (turnover) mark by 2019," he said. "I do not rule it out for this season either but you cannot accurately answer that yet. If we reach that it will be because of the club's sporting success.
Proposed changes to the Champions League from 2018 onwards, giving Germany, among other big leagues, four guaranteed automatic group spots, could further boost revenues.
"I think all in all it is a good compromise," he said of UEFA's proposed changes.
These have been criticised by other leagues, who say bigger clubs gain too much of an advantage.
"I am happy with this format. Bayern but also Borussia Dortmund will participate in sharing more revenues from 2018 onwards and rightly so."
"Bayern but also us, we both helped to leave the mark on this international competition in the past seasons," Watzke said.
(Editing by: Ossian Shine)