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Rummenigge: New World Cup format is nonsense

The European Club Association president also warns balance of power is shifting towards his members

European Club Association (ECA) president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge described Fifa's 48-team World Cup as "nonsense" yesterday and warned football's governing body that the balance of power in the sport was shifting towards his members.

However, Rummenigge, whose organisation represents 220 clubs, played down suggestions that clubs could rebel against Fifa by refusing to release players for international matches and tournaments.

"The increase from 32 to 48 teams is actually nonsense, we had a format which everyone was happy with," he told an audience at the Spobis conference in Duesseldorf.

"At the end of the day, there are the top clubs such as Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the big Spanish and English clubs, Paris St Germain, Juventus," said Rummenigge, who is also Bayern's chief executive.

"That is a shift of power that neither Uefa or Fifa can stop and things have changed dramatically in the last few years."

Fifa voted earlier this month to increase the size of the World Cup from 32 teams to 48 from the 2026 edition, fulfilling a campaign promise of its president Gianni Infantino, who was elected last year.

"If the big clubs were to refuse to allow their players to take part, that would not be in the interest of the fans," said Rummenigge, who was sharing the stage with Borussia Dortmund's chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke.

"Fifa needs to step away from politics and from finance, and pay more attention to football.

"The World Cup is a most extraordinary event, it's the biggest sporting event in the world and Fifa must deal with this matter in a more responsible and democratic manner."

Watzke was equally critical of Fifa, but also rejected a boycott.

"Europe's top clubs have the feeling at the moment that they are not taken seriously enough by Fifa," he said.

"But nobody is interested in such a break-up, neither the clubs nor Fifa."

Watzke also criticised the standard of international football and the number of games.

"When you sit down after a hard day's work to watch Germany play San Marino, you're asleep on the sofa within 15 minutes," he said.

Rummenigge said that the ECA had a good understanding with European football's governing body Uefa, but Fifa was different.

"The Africans have different interests to the Europeans and the Asians have different interests to the Africans, and that is something which is difficult to solve for any president," the former West Germany forward said. - REUTERS

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