Calls to boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia would be “empty-gesture politics” and would end up as a show of weakness, according to former sports minister Richard Caborn.
European Union officials, reportedly with the backing of British Prime Minister David Cameron, are considering a move to call for a boycott of the tournament as a protest against Russian actions in Ukraine.
Caborn was a leading voice in the sporting boycott of South Africa during the apartheid years but believes similar action against Russia would be ineffective and that - as happened with the 1980 Moscow Olympics when the USA boycotted but a British team still competed - there would be a global split.
He said:“Politicians often think they can institute a boycott but that can end up as being a show of weakness not of strength.
“You’ll end up having the world split down the middle as happened in 1980, and that is the worst of all worlds.
“No one condones what is going on Ukraine but it would be merely empty-gesture politics from those that did boycott the World Cup.
“The sporting boycott of South Africa worked because there was a total consensus between sports and politicians - but there is not at all over Russia.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter has already made it clear that the world governing body will not move the World Cup.
He said at the weekend: “We are definitely holding the World Cup in Russia. We are in a situation in which we have expressed our trust to the organisers of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. (A boycott) has never achieved anything.”
Cameron was part of the final push for England’s failed bid for the 2018 World Cup and was furious that a number of FIFA members who had promised their vote reneged on their pledge.