Responding to suggestions from European leaders, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has said that a boycott of the 2018 World Cup, to be held in Russia, would be "nonsense," the Associated Press reported on Friday.
Officials in some European countries have broached the idea of a boycott as a response to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which many western governments blame Russia for provoking and perpetuating.
After meeting with organizers in Sochi, Russia, about the state of preparations for the Russian tournament, Valcke said that world leaders should not view the World Cup as an extension of world politics.
"I hope that the world will understand and recognize that the World Cup is a sporting event and there is nothing to do with politics and should not be used as a political tool...by any groups," said Valcke.
He added that discussion of a boycott was an effort to inflame tensions rather than "to be realistic on what the world is today."
Valcke is the first senior official from soccer's international governing body to travel to Russia since a report by FIFA ethics judge Joachim Eckert was published last week. The report summarized an investigation by Michael Garcia into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups; Eckert wrote that any corrupt acts did not necessitate the re-opening of the bidding process.
The full investigation will be reviewed by FIFA Audit and Compliance chairman Domenico Scala. Scala will have the ability to make Garcia's full report available to the body's executive committee.
In addition to on-going geopolitical tensions, racism, hooliganism and the high costs, including a budget that could reach $40 billion, have caused concern about the Russian World Cup.
Logistical issues have also troubled organizers. Many arenas will have to expanded to accommodate larger crowds, and potential travel problems will have to be addressed. The easternmost host city, Yekaterinburg, is approximately 1,500 miles from the western city of Kaliningrad.
- Christopher Woody