Russia, who won the right to stage the soccer tournament in a 2010 vote by football’s world governing body FIFA, is allegedly backing pro-Russian rebels against Ukrainian forces in a war in eastern Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula five months ago.
“You’ll end up having the world split down the middle, and that is the worst of all worlds,” Caborn was quoted as saying by the BBC on Friday.
“No one condones what is going on in Ukraine but it would be merely empty-gesture politics from those that did boycott the World Cup,” he said.
A large number of countries led by the United States boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow over the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the previous year but others including Britain took part.
Russia followed suit by boycotting the next Games in Los Angeles in a move followed by most of the other Eastern Bloc nations.
Caborn, who held office from 2001-2007, differentiated such a move from the sports boycott of South Africa during apartheid. South Africa was barred from the Olympic Games from 1964 to 1988.
“The sporting boycott of South Africa worked because there was a total consensus between sports and politicians, but there is not over Russia,” Caborn said.
Several western European countries boycotted the Melbourne Games in 1956 over Russia’s invasion of Hungary and Middle Eastern nations did the same over Britain and France’s invasion of Suez.
There was also an African boycott of the 1976 Montreal Games in protest at New Zealand’s presence despite their All Blacks rugby team’s tour of South Africa that year.
FIFA does not intend to change the venue for the 2018 finals with FIFA president Sepp Blatter saying in March the tournament would go ahead in Russia regardless of the country’s annexation of Crimea.
A boycott by black players might occur, however, if racism in Russian football is not stamped out.
Manchester City’s Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure said as much last year after complaining he had been racially abused during a Champions League match against CSKA Moscow.
“If we aren’t confident at the World Cup, coming to Russia, we won’t come,” Toure said. CSKA were punished with a partial closure of their stadium at their next home match in the competition.
(Reporting by Rex Gowar, editing by Pritha Sarkar)