FIFA president Gianni Infantino reacted to the public hardening by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by promising to “listen” to president Thomas Bach, opposed to his controversial project to hold the World Cup every two years.
“We will listen to the IOC president and all the associations to make a thorough analysis,” Infantino said during his Monday visit to Argentina, a stop on a Latin American tour in which he is promoting a project he says he did not initially believe in.
“I myself had refused to hold a World Cup every two years, because it’s about modifying a dogma. But when you do a whole analysis, you understand the benefits it attracts,” added the world soccer chief, who promised a decision in the coming weeks.
“Our responsibility is to make a decision before December to define whether the World Cup can be held every two years. My idea is to seek consensus among all the factors involved in soccer,” he insisted.
Infantino’s promise to talk to Bach comes after the IOC raised its profile and made clear its annoyance with the FIFA president, who is also a member of the world governing body of Olympism.
The IOC took two steps. On Saturday it issued a stark statement unambiguously titled: “The IOC supports calls for wider consultation on FIFA’s World Cup plans and shares the concerns.”
And on Monday it went further by confirming to Around the Rings that Infantino did not advance his plans to Bach.
“At no time did the FIFA president contact the IOC president to discuss these proposals,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.
A month earlier, Bach had been laconic, merely saying he was following developments with interest.
“This is a matter for FIFA and the continental associations to decide, we are following closely, monitoring these discussions, and we find them very interesting.”
The IOC president added that he would not interfere in the debate.
“Let this discussion evolve, let the consequences or possible consequences of this measure become clearer day by day thanks to this discussion within FIFA and, in particular, also through the contributions of FIFA’s continental associations.”
In just one month, the rift between the two organizations has grown and the level of confrontation, which also includes UEFA, has accelerated.
UEFA is holding a meeting of its 55 federations this Tuesday to which Infantino was invited to express his opposition to the project. Around the Rings confirmed that the FIFA president will be part of the meeting with the organization chaired by Slovenia’s Aleksandr Ceferin.
Recently, a group of national federations that make up UEFA, some of them among the largest in Europe, put forward an idea to stop FIFA: appealing to Article 18 of UEFA’s statutes.
As confirmed by Around the Rings, the proposal to activate that article by that group of large and medium-sized UEFA federations would mean leaving FIFA. “Let’s play a World Cup with Conmebol, and good luck to FIFA,” it was said.
It cannot be said that Infantino does not have accurate information about the discontent in European soccer. In late September, Ceferin visited Zurich to meet with the FIFA president, Around the Rings was able to confirm. No agreements are known to have resulted from that meeting, and the disagreements continued in public.