David Owen ©ITG

It can be only a matter of time now, surely, before Gianni Infantino becomes a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The FIFA President has enjoyed easily his best month since his election in February 2016, with the choice of "loadsamoney" North America as host of the 2026 World Cup followed by a feast of gripping, high-octane footballing entertainment at this year’s tournament in Russia.

Yes, there remain questions about FIFA’s governance and financial performance in recent times.

But the 48-year-old Swiss-born son of Italian parents must now be red hot favourite to secure re-election next year.

And while there is still scope for United States justice to inflict further harm on the battered FIFA brand, it should be easy enough for Infantino to shrug this off as the legacy of "Old FIFA".

The President of the governing body of what is by far the wealthiest sport on the Olympic programme has not been an IOC member since August 2015, when it emerged that Sepp Blatter had ceased to be a member of world sport’s most powerful club.

Issa Hayatou was an IOC member during the nearly five month-period until February 2016 when he was acting FIFA President.

Were Thomas Bach, right, and Gianni Infantino, left, chatting at the World Cup Final about the FIFA President becoming a member of the International Olympic Committee? ©Getty Images
Were Thomas Bach, right, and Gianni Infantino, left, chatting at the World Cup Final about the FIFA President becoming a member of the International Olympic Committee? ©Getty Images

But with Infantino’s election post-dating by nine months the extraordinary dawn raid by Swiss police in Zurich which kick-started FIFA’s recent woes, it would be readily understandable if the IOC had decided to keep at arm’s length from the unfolding crisis by delaying induction of football’s new boss.  

FIFA Council member Lydia Nsekera of Burundi has in any case been an IOC member for nearly a decade.

The plain fact though is that, as underlined once again by Russia 2018, football - soccer - is such a towering edifice in the cityscape of sport that its leader’s absence from the pinnacle global multi-sports conclave would start to seem perverse if continued for much longer.

You can measure football’s raw power in three obvious ways.

One: it stops the world.

The Olympics sometimes does this too; but whereas with the Olympics, we tend to be captivated by different, near-simultaneous, performances and events, the power of a World Cup is that we are all watching, reacting and talking about essentially the same thing.

Two: it is an irresistible draw for the rich and powerful.

Think of how many national leaders Infantino has been able to entertain in the public gaze, but in private, over the past four or five weeks.

In the sporting sphere, only the IOC President himself benefits from that sort of pulling power.

Three: it is a licence to print money.

Whereas many Olympic sports are heavily dependent on the cash passed onto them after each Olympic Games, Summer or Winter, for FIFA these handouts are a drop in the ocean.

Not only that, but the European football body UEFA and a handful of top national leagues have become colossal money-spinners in their own right.

Indeed, I would argue that UEFA’s business model is healthier than FIFA’s, since it has a far stronger foothold in the increasingly lucrative, and near continuous, club game.

Of course, the Olympic Movement is about more than just money, even today.

Gianni Infantino has been mixing with the world's leaders during the FIFA World Cup in Russia ©Getty Images
Gianni Infantino has been mixing with the world's leaders during the FIFA World Cup in Russia ©Getty Images

But there is an eminently sensible commercial reason why it would be pragmatic to offer Infantino a seat in the IOC club in the near future.

This is that we now know that the Olympic Movement and FIFA are set to attempt to draw from the same financial well - namely the, admittedly uniquely bountiful, North American sports sponsorship market - in quick succession.

FIFA’s 48-team North American World Cup, divided between the United States, Canada and Mexico, will come just two years before the Los Angeles 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.

Indeed, things could get even more crowded if the IOC decides that North America is also the best option for the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This would be on the grounds that local opposition is making a European Winter Games extremely difficult to get off the ground and that Asia will already have hosted consecutive Winter Games in 2018 at Pyeongchang and 2022 in Beijing.

While he has had much else on his mind during his first two-and-a-half years in the FIFA hot-seat, Infantino strikes me as the type of individual who would be appreciative of the status IOC membership confers - who wouldn’t be?

Ushering him into the Olympic tent might help to ensure that this potentially delicate North American period can be navigated efficiently, to maximum mutual advantage.

With Blatter having joined the year after he became FIFA President, and his predecessor, João Havelange, an Olympic athlete, inducted 11 years before he took the football body’s top job, I would be surprised if I do not witness Infantino swearing an Olympic oath quite soon.