Biennial World Cup plan would damage world sport, warn IOC members

By Sports Desk February 03, 2022

Gianni Infantino's plan for a biennial World Cup came under fire from Olympic figures on Thursday, with a claim FIFA could "create immeasurable damage" across sport.

At the International Olympic Committee (IOC) congress in Beijing, held on the eve of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, the view was voiced that football could have a profoundly negative impact if the World Cup switches from being held once every four years.

The powerful European and South American confederations, UEFA and CONMEBOL, have refused to support world governing body FIFA's plans, but there is support from within Asia, Africa and the CONCACAF region that covers North and Central America, plus the Caribbean.

FIFA issued studies in December that showed solidarity funding for each of its 211 national associations would rise from $6million to "potentially" $25million for the first four-year cycle of an era of biennial World Cups.

Yet there is concern among senior figures in other sports that football's power could be detrimental in the wider picture of sport, pushing other events into the background.

Algerian Mustapha Berraf, who serves as president of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), told the IOC congress he was firmly opposed to FIFA plans.

"The plan would create immeasurable damage and would put sport in danger and in particular football," Berraf said. "It would simply push away other sports and relegate them to the back benches – which is unacceptable – and create a rift between women's and men's sport, and be a setback to our aim of creating equity and parity for all sports."

According to the Guardian, Berraf added: "I make the request to put an end to this endeavour which is incompatible with our Olympic values."

There was also opposition expressed by Nenad Lalovic, president of United World Wrestling, and Ryu Seung-min, vice-president of the IOC Athletes' Commission.

IOC president Thomas Bach said Infantino, who is also an IOC member, had written to him this week to advise he would not be able to attend congress, denying members a chance to discuss the World Cup plans face to face.

"We would like to discuss this with the FIFA president, but this is not possible because he cancelled his visit to Beijing the day before yesterday," said Bach.

"We should not discuss this now on a wider scale on this issue in his absence in respect for our colleague."

Bach said the remarks would be sent on to Infantino.

Asked later in the day how he had learned that Infantino would not be coming to Beijing, Bach told a news conference the FIFA chief had blamed the pandemic.

He said: "Mr Infantino has written me a letter the day before yesterday, [in which he said] that because of the pandemic situation he would not travel to Beijing, and he would follow the session from Cameroon, where he would be for the semi-finals and the final of the Africa Cup (of Nations)."

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