Figo launches FIFA manifesto, proposes expanded World Cup

Luis Figo talks to the media as he launches his FIFA Presidential Campaign Manifesto at Wembley Stadium.

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

LONDON —

Luis Figo would consider expanding the World Cup, possibly to 40 or even 48 teams, if he is elected FIFA president in May.

The former Portugal winger, who played at two World Cups, said Thursday that the current 32-team tournament could be increased to 40 teams or FIFA could stage two 24-team competitions simultaneously on two continents followed by a knockout phase in one nation.

Figo launched his manifesto on Thursday at Wembley Stadium as he tries to unseat Sepp Blatter, who is seeking a fifth, four-year term as president. FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein and Dutch football association chairman Michael van Praag are also candidates.

Figo, the 2001 FIFA world player of the year, also proposes spreading half of FIFA’s $2.5 billion revenue over four years to associations to fund grassroots football. He said $1 billion of FIFA’s $1.5 billion cash reserves should be redistributed to the 209 national federations.

The election in May is a vote of those 209 members, and Blatter already has the support from the federations of Asia, Africa, South America and Oceania.

”There are obstacles that will have to be overcome,” said Figo, who played for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter Milan.

But Figo is still hopeful of convincing voters to back him to repair FIFA, which has been reeling after years of corruption investigations.

”This image we are aware of this organization that leads football is not the appropriate image,” Figo said through a translator. ”I trust that most of (the national associations) want change and are ready for change, a democratic change, a change so that we achieve transparency and a change that goes back to football itself.”

Figo, who said he is using his career earnings to fund the campaign, also proposes changes to the rules of football in his manifesto.

He wants trials for ”sin bins” – removing players temporarily instead of dismissing them – for unsporting behavior to referees, and to revert to the old rule where a player is offside regardless of whether they are directly involved in play.