By Andrew Warshaw
September 7 – In an extraordinary move given the significance of the occasion and the media interest worldwide, FIFA have scrapped staging a press conference following next week’s eagerly awaited first full meeting of its new 36-member ruling Council.
Despite a packed agenda and a number of highly relevant topics involving FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the practise of a globally streamed press conference has been abandoned, potentially excluding scores of media across FIFA’s six confederations from hearing first-hand from Infantino.
Rather than expose him to the global media spotlight, FIFA’s communications team is instead setting up a “mixed zone” area, solely for journalists and cameramen present in Zurich, to pose questions. Whilst this format can often have the advantage of being less formal and more accommodating than a structured press conference, such a gathering is usually far more beneficial for follow-up questions. On its own, it runs the risk of turning into a free-for-all with little continuity, no translation and reporters jostling for position.
Not since the FIFA Congress in May has so many of its top brass come together under one roof to debate so many issues.
Among the subjects to be discussed, either formally or informally, are the 2026 World Cup bidding process, Infantino’s controversial idea of a 48-nation World Cup finals, the increasingly fractious Israel-Palestine issue, regulations regarding the 2018 tournament in Russia and, amid the danger of cronyism, membership of FIFA’s standing committees. Lurking in the background as well is FIFA’s recent contentious decision to abandon its anti-discrimination Task Force.
Whether FIFA have now made a conscious decision to phase out press conferences for good remains to be seen. But it would appear the organisation’s communications team have already taken the unilateral view that the week-long gathering of FIFA’s most powerful decision-makers will not throw up anything sufficiently newsworthy – a worrying precedent just at the time when the organisation is striving for credibility.
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