The European Club Association (ECA) insisted Tuesday that extending the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams would put too much burden on clubs and inflict physical overload on players.

“We are satisfied with the balance of interest and any change would need very careful review,” insisted ECA vice-president Umberto Gandini.

The AC Milan director was speaking at the end of a two day working session in Paris with a bouquet of subjects on the club lobby group’s agenda, chiefly aimed at combating FIFA reforms to the World Cup.

ECA said “the burden on players has become too much” and described the new proposal by FIFA presidential candidate Gianni Infantino as leading to physical overload. 

“The clubs acknowledge the importance of national teams to the federations but we have a responsibility to the players,” Gandini explained.

Gandini revealed that Infantino had presented his manifesto to them Tuesday and that the Swiss intended to extend the World Cup to 40 teams by 2026 if elected.

“We have only recently agreed a new international calendar until 2022, so we would be disappointed if they were to try and impose a change already,” Gandini added.

“The decision is in the hands of FIFA. But as important stakeholders, we expect to be at the table. 

“Our evaluation can only be negative because we see what is demanded of the top players nationally and internationally with their clubs and then with the national sides.

“I cannot say what we would do to combat them if they decide to go ahead, but we would be very unhappy and expect to be able to discuss all this to avoid an extension happening.”

Despite reluctance to openly endorse a FIFA presidential candidate the Italian however expressed very close ties with Infantino. 

“We wish Gianni well, he deserves the best and FIFA deserve the best.

“We understand he needs to attract votes from all over the world now, but on this point we cannot back him.”

“We had a good relationship with him at UEFA and he was always on our side, so while we cannot endorse a candidate for an election in which we do not yet have a vote, we wish him well and look forward to working with him or whoever is elected,” Gandini said.

“He’s always been very instrumental for the development of the relationships between the clubs and the associations, therefore we look with great sympathy on his candidacy for the upcoming election. He was very warmly received by us here and one thing is clear, we wish Gianni the very best of luck!”

The ECA, set up in 2008 with 2220 members from 53 associations, have succeeded in negotiating a 150 million euros ($169 million) compensation package for teams whose players are selected for the Euro 2016.

The cash is to be paid at around 5800 euros per player per day, starting two weeks before the tournament begins and running until the day following their elimination.

Jean-Michel Aulas the Lyon president and one time leader of the group’s predecessor the G14 explained that all teams who had players participating in the Euro 2016 qualifiers, would get around 4000 euros per player per game played. – Agence France-Presse

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