FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter holding up the name of Qatar during the official announcement of the 2022 World Cup host country at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES

Figo the way to go for game

REGULAR readers of this column will know I haven't got much time for FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

That is why it is good to see three genuine contenders set to challenge him when he stands for re-election on May 29.

Only time will tell whether any of the trio - former Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Barcelona and Portugal star Luis Figo, Dutch Football Association president Michael van Praag and the Jordanian executive committee member Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein - have any chance of unseating the 78-year-old Blatter.

Figo, who made more than 700 appearances in a distinguished career at club and international level, has unveiled his manifesto and it seems as if he wants to hit the ground running if he does win the top job

The Spaniard says he would improve goal-line technology, introduce a rugby-style sin bin for players who abuse referees, and would also hope to do away with the punishment that players and coaches hate the most - when teams are hit three times after players commit professional fouls in the box, suffering a penalty kick, a red card and a subsequent suspension.

Figo also wants a return to the old offside rule in which players are penalised whether or not they are involved in play.

But the most radical change he has proposed is to expand the number of teams in the World Cup finals to either 40 or 48.

The former midfielder said in either of his proposals the extra teams would be weighted towards non-European countries and the tournament would need to be extended by three or four days.

He said if 48 countries qualified there would need to be two tournaments involving 24 teams across two continents.

A knockout stage would then be held in one country which would almost certainly be the same as the last-16 stage of the present tournament.

Some might say that if it ain't broke why fix it?

But I see it in a different way. At least Figo realises there is a need for a change and he is putting his options out there.

He has the backing of big-name football identities such as David Beckham and Jose Mourinho, but, let's be frank, that alone won't get him the top job.

What Figo needs is the backing of FIFA-member nations around the world so Blatter's reign can finally come to an end.

The former midfielder also wants to reduce FIFA's cash reserves from $1.5 billion to $500 million, and wants to hand the surplus to all FIFA countries.

He also intends to increase money invested into grassroots projects, pledging to inject half of the organisation's $2.5b revenue over four years into the grassroots.

Those proposals might just be enough to get those member nations in his side.

For football's sake I hope so.

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