It is not the first time that a FIFA World Cup is subjected to a debate as whether or not the number of participating teams should be increased and if so what the allocation per continental member of FIFA should be.

It is not the first time that a FIFA World Cup is subjected to a debate as whether or not the number of participating teams should be increased and if so what the allocation per continental member of FIFA should be.

The debate around the number of African countries participating in the World Cup has been a matter of debate over decades. In 1966, FIFA had a membership of 70 countries of which 16 teams played in the World Cup.

In 1982, FIFA membership increased to 109 countries and the World Cup participating teams increased from 16 to 24. The membership increased to 174 in 1998 with the World Cup participating teams increasing to 32.

In 2017, FIFA membership will be 211and now the question is should the World Cup take this into account and increase participating teams from 32 to 48? Is this realistic?

Here is an interesting scenario:
  • In 1982 there was an increase from16 to 24 = 8 teams
  • In 1998 there was an increase from 24 to 32 = 8 teams
  • In 2026 there will be an increase from 32 to 48 = 16 teams
Total percentage of membership participating in World Cup:
  • 16 out of 70 members = 14,8% (1966)
  • 24 out of 109 members = 22,4% (1982)
  • 32 out of 174 members = 18,3.% (1998)
  • 48 out of 211 members = 22,4% (2026)

So the main question people are grappling with on the African continent is what is the right number the continent must receive should the number be increased to 48?

From a total number of 54 countries in Africa, only 5 countries qualify for the Fifa World Cup.

If Fifa considers increasing the number of teams participating in the World Cup on the basis of increase membership and further consider that plus/minus 20% of total membership should participate in the World Cup, then Africa needs to make three points.

Historical basis for allocation of World Cup slots:
  • National teams performance. Argument has been that European teams go all the way but majority of African teams drop in the initial stages.
  • Majority of broadcast revenue comes from Europe and therefore high number of European teams guarantees high Broadcast Revenue.
  • The majority of Commercial Partners comes from Europe and therefore from a marketing point of view, the marketing returns will be generated in Europe.
  • This basis has been fundamentally transformed as a result of the globalisation of the economy and the shift in the economic dominance resulting in the formation of BRICS which includes the 3 Biggest Economies in the world China, India, Russia.
  • Two of these countries also have the biggest population, China, India and Africa all having a billion people.
  • So the BRICS have a major share of the global economy as well as the biggest population sizes.
  • We therefore see the shift in the current sponsors of FIFA – Hyundai (Korea), Sony (Japan), Satyam (India), Emirates (Middle East) and so on. Only European major sponsor remaining is Adidas.
  • It is therefore clear most revenue now comes out of Europe and the future of broadcast revenue is in the USA, Mexico, China, India and Asia as a whole including Africa. In order to capture these markets, greater consideration to increase the World Cup slots should go to Africa and Asia.
What is the rationale of this for Africa?
  • One of the biggest membership growth areas is Africa since 1960.
  • Africa currently has less than 10% i.e. 5 out of 54 countries.
  • If 20% of total membership is a consideration then Africa must be considered with a membership – participation ratio of between 5% and 20 % i.e. between 5 countries and 10 countries.
  • Other factors that favour Africa is the commercial and financial attractiveness.
  • The global economy has experienced major shifts with FIFA Partners coming from the Middle East and Asia; with new broadcast revenue and digital media becoming more significant as revenue streams.
  • China and India as well as the Brics economic bloc has become major players.
  • Broadcasters are looking at major markets; China with over 1.3billion population, India 1.1billion and Africa with1billion.
  • There is a direct relation between media and broadcast interest in the World Cup and the participation of the Country.
  • The additional commercial revenue will certainly help FIFA to sustain the current grant of US$1.2 million per Member Association per year.
  • The format of 48 teams Group in to 3X 16 to be reduced to 32 to produce a winner is to be supported
  • Africa must strengthen its claim for a minimum of 8 teams.