The Jungle Drum - Earth Calling Earth

Earth calling earth - The Jungle Drum - Football And The City

Earth Calling Earth

The Jungle Drum - September 18th 2018

I’m not selling football’s soul. I don’t have the right to do it and if I had it, I wouldn’t do it, of course. No-one is selling anything.
— Gianni Infantino



I believe in the power of football. I believe that football is a leveller. At its best it can change lives, lift people out of poverty - or simply give people an escape from the drudgery that makes up 99% of human existence. So, naturally, I would like to see the game spread as far and wide as possible.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino is a reformer in a lot of ways - but this comes with a caveat. He campaigned only because his old boss at UEFA - Michel Platini - was suspended as part of the FIFA corruption scandal after receiving various bribes in the region of £750,000 - and another directly from disgraced FIFA President Sepp Blatter for £1.3 million as a “loyalty payment.” If Platini had been cleared in time, then Infantino would have stepped aside to allow him to run instead.

Infantino made a lot of money for UEFA - he helped triple their profits over a 7 year period. But he was also accused of favouring the top clubs in Europe - as they made the most money. FIFA needed this kind of head financially, with spiralling legal costs and huge loss in sponsorship revenue at the height of the scandal.

So, with this in mind, to the reforms. He campaigned on promises of transparency (especially in relation to the World Cup bidding process) and to expand the World Cup from 32 to 40 teams. This has since been changed - and passed - to 48 teams, starting at the 2026 World Cup. The entire bidding process was available, at every stage, to the general public. I followed it all the way through and yes - it was. So he has delivered on that front.

He has also delivered on his promise to expand the World Cup - not to 40 - but to 48 countries. It is definitely happening for the 2026 version - but Infantino is now lobbying to start it ahead of schedule at Qatar 2022. Now, we must ask ourselves, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

There is so much inside me that wants to see countries from emerging and developing nations given the chance to shine on the World stage. I love the idea of more African & Asian teams being given the opportunity to develop the game in their countries. If handled correctly the extra money pouring into their respective F.A.’s coffers could really help to bring the game on massively. Not just in those countries - but to drive the global level in general, as the game theoretically becomes more competitive.

The other part of me thinks that, for all the talk of “inclusivity” from FIFA & Infantino, it is nothing more than yet another cynical money-grabbing ploy from the games’ global governing body. It seems obvious, but still worth pointing out, that extra countries would mean extra sponsorship revenue, increased engagement, brand awareness & massive TV rights revenue boosts as the global audience increases.

It is also worth noting that Infantino is up for reelection next year and appeasing (or pleasing) more nations never does a campaign any harm when it comes to voting.

Another line of thought I’ve had is that if it truly is about inclusivity - then why not go whole-hog and allow every country to enter - just like at the Olympics?

Is an expanded World Cup a good thing or a bad thing for World football?

Join in the debate on Twitter about this here


The first black player to play for Celtic was Gil Heron - the father of musical icon Gil Scott-Heron.

Courtesy of @RaymondoBroon on Twitter.


England beat Switzerland in Kick it Out friendly match.

England beating Switzerland 1-0 in a pointless friendly (that UEFA were aiming to get rid of with the advent of The Nations League) is not newsworthy in and of itself. But a couple of things made it interesting.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the inspirational Kick It Out campaign, The F.A. Chose this match as a tribute to the marvellous work they have done over the last quarter of a century. The first 25 seconds of the match were broadcast in black and white. 

Whilst we’re on the subject of broadcasting, Sky Sports had the rights to both of the England matches during the international break. At a time when goodwill towards the England team and manager are at their highest point in years, you might think this a slightly odd choice. But the long and the short of it is that UEFA sanction both the friendlies and the broadcasting rights during the Nation’s League windows. And for this window (and we’d have to assume all others) they have sold the rights to Sky.

Egyptian fans were allowed back into their stadiums for the first time in 6 years this week.

Following riots in 2012, at a stadium in Port Said, which left 74 dead and more than 500 injured, fans were finally allowed back in to the stands to watch domestic football after a 6 year absence. Only 5,000 fans were let into watch a match between Zamalek FC and ENPPI - in a 16,000 capacity stadium. Each one of them had been cleared to attend in advance. This should be a story worth watching over the next year.


Coming soon - The Football And The City Podcast - this will be me in a conversation with someone about important aspects of the modern game. It will focus, largely, on cultural aspects & how the game is being used to positive effect around the globe.

And, of course, The Jungle Drum will be back at 8:00 P.M. next Monday.

J.S. Leatherbarrow - Editor 

J.S. Leatherbarrow