FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday that increased revenues from a biennial World Cup would create opportunities for Africans who otherwise could migrate and find "death in the sea" crossing the Mediterranean.
The idea of a World Cup every two years has been gathering steam with Infantino trying to get support from national federations, saying the switch would create an extra $4.4 billion in revenues for the world body.
FIFA has said that the additional funds would help reduce the gap in revenues between the developed and less developed football markets.
In an address to the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights organisation, Infantino stressed the importance of making soccer more inclusive for countries outside of Europe.
"This topic is not about whether we want a World Cup every two years, but about what do we want to do for the future of football," Infantino said. "If we think about the rest of world and the vast majority of Europe, then we have to think about what football brings.
"Football is about opportunity, about hope, about the national teams. We cannot say to the rest of world give us your money, but watch us on TV. We need to include them.
"We need to find ways to include the whole world to give hope to Africans so that they don't need to cross the Mediterranean in order to find maybe a better life but, more probably, death in the sea."
FIFA president Gianni Infantino appears to suggest a two-year World Cup would help prevent refugees from fleeing to Europe. pic.twitter.com/nG20syzIq9— DW Sports (@dw_sports) January 26, 2022
Infantino admitted later that the biennial World Cup might not be the answer to the migrant crisis.
"We need to give opportunities, to give dignity," Infantino said.
"Not by charity but by allowing the rest of the world to participate. Maybe the World Cup every two years is not the answer.
"We will discuss what the best way is to be more inclusive, not just to speak about saying no to discrimination, but to actually act in exactly that direction."
According to the U.N.-affiliated International Organization for Migration, more than 1,315 people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East perished in the Mediterranean last year.
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru, Editing by William Maclean)