IOC adds to fierce criticism of Fifa over impact of biennial World Cup plan

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The International Olympic Committee has called for discussions over Fifa’s plan to hold the World Cup every two years instead of every four – suggesting football’s governing body is putting money ahead of sport.

Fifa’s proposals are set to be voted on in December by its 211 member associations, with the president, Gianni Infantino – also an IOC member – travelling the world to rally support for the plan, which has been fronted by the former Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger.

The plan has met with fierce criticism from a number of continental and national federations, players’ groups as well as supporters. Uefa cited numerous concerns about the impact of such a switch including the “dilution” of the World Cup’s value, risks of players being over-worked and women’s football suffering.

Related: ‘We are not robots’: Courtois hits out at Uefa and Fifa over number of games

In a statement, the IOC’s executive board echoed those issues, saying: “A number of international federations of other sports, national football federations, clubs, players, player associations and coaches have expressed strong reservations and concerns regarding the plans to generate more revenue for Fifa.”

It said these concerns related to three main areas: the “undermining of the diversity and development of sports other than football”; “the increase of men’s events in the calendar creating challenges for the further promotion of women’s football”; and player welfare. The statement said: “The plans would create a further massive strain on the physical and mental health of the players.”

They concluded: “The IOC shares these concerns and supports the calls of stakeholders of football, international sports federations and major event organisers for a wider consultation, including with athletes’ representatives, which has obviously not taken place.”

European and South American clubs, leagues and confederations are understood to be confident they can stop the plan, regardless of the outcome of a vote, raising the prospect of a damaging split in the international game.

Sponsors have also not held back – with Kasper Rørsted, chief executive of one of Fifa’s main sponsors, Adidas, voicing his scepticism of the plans this month.

“I don’t think much of a football World Cup held every two years,” he told the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. “There’s a European Championship here, there’s a Copa América in Latin America. One should also leave space for other things.

“I am a passionate football fan … but I think it is important that not only football is shown on television but also biathlon, skiing, tennis or handball. If you push just one product heavily it is not good for any product.”

Infantino defended his proposal in response, saying: “The prestige of an event depends on its quality, not its frequency. You have the Super Bowl every year, Wimbledon or the Champions League every year, and everyone is excited and waiting for it.”

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