• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Africa’s chance of hosting 2026 World Cup hangs in balance

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As the world of football prepares for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the various heads at FIFA will assemble a day before the kickoff date to decide which nation(s) get the hosting right for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, an event which will see 48 teams take part for the first time ever. The 2026 FIFA World Cup has seen three bids; a combined one by USA and Canada, Mexico and Morocco.

Since the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa with over 3,178,856 attendance, the opportunity for an African country to stage another World Cup seems to be a mirage as Morocco’s 2026 World Cup bid looks very unlikely to happen, as world governing football body, FIFA is said to be considering countries that has the strongest financial muscle.

The Moroccon government says they are ready to break the bank to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup if the country wins the right to host the football fiesta. Morocco has proposed to spend $15.8 billion on infrastructure, with 14 stadiums if the bid sails through.

But FIFA’s task force has found deficiencies in the proposals for the 2026 tournament.

In a downbeat conclusion to the visit by the FIFA, inspectors to Morocco’s bid leader acknowledged it had to improve the quality of the submission made to FIFA in March because inadequacies were identified by football’s governing body.

There will also be closer scrutiny of human rights of the bidders before the vote on June 13 when Morocco is due to be taking on a joint challenge from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The Associated Press revealed that Morocco did not declare its anti-LGBT law to FIFA in the human rights risk assessment included in the bid book. The documents — along with the North American submission — will now be scrutinised for any gaps by human rights experts.

“That process involves an expert third-party assessment of the robustness of the human rights content of both bids that will directly inform the administration’s own evaluation,” Rachel Davis, who sits on FIFA’s human rights advisory board, told the AP.

“We are confident that the process will result in a fair assessment of the human rights situation in all four countries involved in the bids, and a roadmap for how to deal with any deficiencies that FIFA will then require the successful bidder to commit to.”

Davis, who is managing director of the Shift human rights organisation, said an evaluation of the human rights in the bidding nations will be included in a report to the FIFA Council, which will also assess the verdict of the evaluation task force.
The council can block a bid with low scores from advancing to a vote of up to 207 football nations at the FIFA Congress on June 13.

There are claims that FIFA President Gianni Infantino is attempting to kick out Morocca’s bid for the 2026 World Cup from the race before the vote takes place.

The American bid claims holding a World Cup in the US, Canada will generate around $5 billion in economic activity and $2.1 billion in ticket revenue alone.

This comes at a time where the ghost of FIFA’s past still hovers over the governing body like a dark, ominous cloud, where sponsors remain reticent and where they are continuing to fork out money for excessive legal costs with the United States Department of Justice investigation into corruption. No wonder Infantino is so keen to have the tournament in the region.

Infantino had pledged to give each of the 211 Member Associations $5 million every four years for football development, coupled with $40 million to each Confederation over the same period, and he has long struggled to find a way to pay for that.

It was a promise that held huge sway with the electorate and ultimately saw him succeed his banned compatriot Sepp Blatter as FIFA President at the Extraordinary Congress in Zurich in February 2016.

It goes without saying, though, that this should not lead to attempting to influence the outcome of the vote and both FIFA and Infantino have dismissed the reports suggesting otherwise.

“The FIFA President is not involved in this process and he will not take part in the vote of the Congress,” a FIFA statement read. “These are facts and not ‘maybe’ or gossip.”

What cannot be denied, however, is the allure of money. Infantino recently called for an emergency meeting to discuss an offer tabled by a group comprised of a Japanese bank plus investors from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, which could generate tens of billions for world football’s governing body.

These were further compounded by the ethics proceedings brought against secretary general Fatma Samoura, initiated and then dismissed quicker than you can say “El Hadji Diouf”, related to Morocco’s attempt to land the hosting rights for the 2026 tournament and a supposed undeclared family link between the highest-ranking female FIFA official and the former Premier League player.

Laced in between all of this is Infantino calling a meeting of the FIFA Bureau – the five Confederation heads plus the FIFA President – after world football’s governing body received a $25 billion rights offer which could radically alter the football calendar.

United States President Donald Trump has sent warning to nations who might oppose the joint North American bid via Twitter, met with a reminder from FIFA about the bidding rules everyone is supposed to adhere to.

Trump tweeted, “The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?”

The last time the FIFA World Cup was held in USA was in 1994 when Brazil won their fourth title.

Trump met this week with France President Emmanuel Macron. French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet told L’Equipe this month the FFF will vote for Morocco.

FIFA is seeking to avoid the alleged corruption which plagued the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids- won by Russia and Qatar respectively – when they set about establishing a “fair and transparent” process for 2026 but the controversy still lingers, this time surrounding alleged undue influence from Infantino.

Come June 13 in Moscow, 2017 FIFA council members will meet to pick the host for 2026 World Cup and the country with majority of the votes carries the day.

United States President Donald Trump

Reports reveal that the Americas has the upper hand as the result of hosting a World Cup there would be more lucrative for FIFA if they get the hosting right.

FIFA just recovering from their various legal troubles will definitely avoid another tussle and that brightens the Americas chance of winning the 2026 bid.
Again, Morocco’s hopes have been the conflict of interest allegations that have arisen from FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura’s relation with former Liverpool striker El Hadji Diouf, an ambassador for the bid for Morocco.

 

Anthony Nlebem