IOC members fume over plans for biennial FIFA World Cup

Members of the International Olympic Committee say a biennial World Cup will have a major negative impact on other sports.

IOC president Thomas Bach.   -  AP

Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday vented their frustration over plans for a biennial football World Cup instead of the current four-year cycle, saying it would have a major negative impact on other sports.

On the first day of the IOC session before the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Friday, IOC members called on Gianni Infantino, the president of world football’s governing body and who is also an IOC member, to drop his plans.

Infantino, who has cancelled his trip to China, has said changing the World Cup cycle from four years to two would generate an extra USD 4.4 billion in revenues for the world body. FIFA said the additional funds would help reduce the gap in revenues between developed and less developed football markets.

But international sports federations as well as the IOC, which organises the Olympics - Summer or Winter Games - every two years, have opposed Infantino’s plans. A biennial World Cup would clash with the Summer Olympics while also denting the Games’ commercial appeal. Currently the World Cup is held two years apart from the Summer Olympics.

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The World Cup is the biggest international single sports event, commanding sponsorship and broadcasting deals far greater than any other international federation’s event. A tournament every two years would overshadow all other competitions.

“We would like to discuss together with the FIFA president and IOC member but this is not possible now against the expectation, because he cancelled his visit to Beijing the day before yesterday,” IOC chief Thomas Bach told the IOC session.

“We should not discuss now on a wider scale this issue in his absence in respect for our colleague and IOC member. If you agree we will try to make contact with him and will forward these comments which have been made.”

SHARP CRITICISM

Bach was responding to sharp criticism directed at FIFA by several IOC members, including National Olympic Committees of Africa president Mustapha Berraf. “The plan (for a biennial World Cup) would create immeasurable damage and put sport in general in danger and in particular football,” Berraf said.

“It would simply push away other sports and relegate them to the back benches and that would be absolutely unacceptable.”

“It would also create a rift between women’s and men’s sport and be a setback to all our efforts to create equity and parity for all sports,” he said.

European football governing body UEFA and its South American counterpart CONMEBOL have also strongly opposed the idea.

Nenad Lalovic, an IOC Executive Board member and head of United World Wrestling, said there would be “widespread consequences” and that a consultation with FIFA was necessary. “It (the plan) could impact the healthy development of sport and could put the sustainability of other international federations’ events at risk,” Lalovic said.

“The unilateral decision by FIFA on such an important matter ... will have widespread consequences not only on football but all sports globally. These consequences must not be underestimated.”

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