The awarding of the World Cup hosting rights to Russia and Qatar could be “the best thing to happen to football”, according to new CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani.
Russia will host the next finals in 2018 and Qatar the 2022 event, with both nations awarded the tournaments in a controversial vote in December 2010.
A lengthy anti-corruption campaign has been led in FIFA and global football in the subsequent years, with a number of officials indicted on charges including bribery and money-laundering following a high-profile police bust in Zurich last year.
Former CONCACAF chief Jeffrey Webb was among those to be arrested and later banned from the sport by FIFA, while ex-president Sepp Blatter is serving a six-year suspension over an alleged “disloyal” payment made to UEFA counterpart Michel Platini in 2011.
Montagliani, who was elected as Webb’s successor this year amid widespread promises of reform from FIFA and global football federations, believes such changes may not have been possible had the awarding of the World Cups not led to question marks over the integrity of the sport.
“If Russia and Qatar didn’t get the World Cup, would we be in the situation we are now to clean the game? Because I think that was the tipping point for certain things to happen,” the Canadian said on Wednesday.
“If England and the United States would have got the World Cup, maybe we would have had status quo and I wouldn’t be sitting here. In some regards, maybe the best thing to happen to football was Russia and Qatar.
“It’s just an observation I have, we might be where we are but I am just wondering if the authorities that have stepped up would have done that if the choices had been different. It’s more of a theory, it’s not anecdotal at all, it’s just something I wonder about.
“I am coming from a part of the world, the English speaking world where it was a massive issue when those choices were made. It’s just something I think about and I would hope they would have done regardless of it but sometimes I wonder.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has outlined plans to expand the World Cup, possibly to a 48-team competition, beyond the next tournament.
Montagliani accepts that such change is more than likely to be pushed through and now hopes to see a successful bid from a CONCACAF nation to host the finals in 2026.
“I think it’s obvious it’s not going to stay at 32 for 2026,” he said. “I think the message from the president is not so much what the number is right now but the reality is we need to look from a growth perspective, having more teams in there.
“From a traditionalist standpoint, if we had listened to traditionalists we would still have a 16-team World Cup. There is a balance, we don’t want 211 teams in the World Cup, either.
“It is such a strong brand and it inspires a lot of hope and inspiration to lots of countries. For them to just dream about it provides a lot of ground for those countries to promote the game and promote sponsors. I think it’s an opportunity and I think the president is right to look at it and to expand.”
He continued: “I can speak to my country, for us to dream would be tremendous value in the market.
“I think we have three countries to host a World Cup on their own. In terms of a more regional bid there is an opportunity there, too. But we’ll see the rules and regulations next year in terms of what is acceptable. I think the time is now for it come back to our region in 2026.
“The more I think of it, the more I think it makes a lot of sense. If you look at the game from a grass roots level, football is very regional in our area. I think it’s an opportunity to look at a strong regional bid.”
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