FIFA has announced plans to increase the World Cup from 32 teams to 48, with it set to be staged across the North American continent in 2026.
However, the decision has had a backlash from within football, due to the impact the changes will have on the climate.
Professional Footballer’s Association Sustainability Champion David Wheeler labelled the decision “nonsense,” questioning whether FIFA need to make more money after revenues of more than $7.6 billion (£3.3bn) were announced by the President last week.
Wheeler said: “We’re damaging the climate – the climate is sick and potentially terminally ill. We know how to reverse course but instead we’re doing the very thing that’s making it sick and that’s what I think FIFA is suggesting to do.”
Adding more teams will see the number of fans travelling to the World Cup increase, after it was estimated by FIFA that close to one million people travelled to Doha to watch the 2022 competition in Qatar.
FIFA became a signatory of the UN Sport for Climate Action Framework and committed to halving its emissions by 2030 and hitting net zero by 2040 in the process.
However, Sport Ecologist from Loughborough University, Madeleine Orr said the plans to grow the World Cup are “completely contradictory to sustainability goals.” She explained there is “more media coverage because of sport and to not use that platform to send a bigger message about sustainability is a missed goal.”
FIFA stated it has “been making substantial efforts to tackle those impacts and at the same time, to use opportunities to maximise the positive effects of its most iconic tournaments.”