Football's world governing body announced a controversial new plan that will allow all member nations who fail to qualify for the World Cup to buy their way in for an entry fee of $250 million. FIFA's plan will not go into effect until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, but it opens the possibility of the 32-team tournament being expanded exponentially.
"Football is about inclusion," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said of the decision. "And with this plan, we make it possible to include more countries and players and fans. The World Cup qualification process will still go on as usual, but after that ends any other FIFA member nation can buy a ticket to play for a reasonable sum."
Blatter added: "This is not a lot of money, especially when you consider that the World Cup only comes once every four years. There are many nations that can pay $250 million very easily and many others that can pay it if they make cuts to less important things like healthcare and education. If there are countries who still cannot raise the money, FIFA will also offer payday loans at a fair interest rate of 4000 percent. This is a wonderful opportunity we are providing the world."
The chance to buy in to the World Cup will be tempting for many nations that fail to qualify through traditional means. If Mexico is unable to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, sports marketing firm DreaMatch Solutions estimates that it will cost the country's businesses $600 million. Even if governments are unwilling or unable to pay, corporations and mega-rich benefactors could step in to protect and promote private interests.
"The World Cup has become a symbol of global business, so it's only fitting that participation can now be achieved through monetary investment," said a spokesman for the Qatar Investment Authority. "It's time to stop pretending that this tournament is a fairytale that exists purely to make fans happy. It is about business first and foremost and if there are people who do not like that, then maybe they should stop watching the World Cup. It is very simple."
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