Updated: Mar 1, 2020
England's pre-Euro friendly against Italy at Wembley next month may be called off thanks to the coronavirus crisis. Fifa president Gianni Infantino said he ‘would not exclude anything’ when it came to postponing forthcoming international fixtures, as the world of sport reacts to the spread of the illness.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s annual International Football Association Board (Ifab) meeting to discuss the game’s laws, Infantino added that a proposal to allow leeway over the offside rule is unlikely to gain his support, said that VAR is ‘here to stay’ and added that concussion substitutions may be trialled during the football section of the Olympics.
The Football Association is waiting on government advice before deciding whether to look at whether the March fixture should be reviewed. More than 400 cases if the virus have been diagnosed in Italy, with 12 deaths reported.
‘I wouldn’t exclude anything at this moment,’ Infantino said. ‘I think we have to monitor the situation and those in charge, the government, the institutions they also take decision on what is allowed and what isn’t.’
The offside rule will be discussed at Saturday's meeting, where FIFA will be told that marginal decisions triggered by the use of VAR are having a negative impact on the game’s entertainment levels.
The FA, along with the Premier League, are backing a proposal which suggests individual competitions should be given some leeway when it comes to deciding what is a clear offside.
FIFA's support is crucial as it holds four of the eight IFAB votes, with the four British associations having one each and six needed to pass a proposal. But Infantino suggested backing from world football’s governing body will not be forthcoming.
‘It doesn’t solve the issue,’ he said. ‘Even if you put a margin of 10 centimetres and then
if it’s 11, it’s still one more, if it’s 10 and a half…so it doesn’t solve it. It should be clear.’
He did say he was in favour of a new interpretation of the rule but added that such a change would not be ratified at the Belfast meeting. ‘We have to look at whether we can make the offside rule clearer by having light in between,’ he said. ‘But it’s for discussion of course – there will be no decision on this one because there is no proposal on the table.
'VAR is not the problem and is here to stay as far as FIFA is concerned.’
Calls for concussion substitutes have been made after research at the University of Glasgow found that there was a five-fold increase in the risk of Alzheimer’s, a four-fold increase in Motor Neurone Disease and a two-fold increase in Parkinson’s among ex-footballers.
The Premier League will wait for IFAB guidance but are keen on trialling the subs next season. Infantino said that they may be a part of the Olympics this summer.
‘We cannot joke with health,’ Infantino said. ‘We have to take it very seriously. I’m in favour of looking into having substitutions in case there is a concussion, because it can happen and we need to protect the health of the players above everything else.
'I think maybe it’s important there are trials before next season. We have the Olympic Games for example where we could as FIFA trial something like that and see what happens.’ A 10-minute time period has been suggested but Infantino believes that substitutions should be final.
‘I believe more in permanent that temporary,’ he added. ‘That’s my personal view.’
On the coronavirus threat to the Olympics, Infantino added he was ‘hopeful’ there would be no issues.