FIFA Shakes Up World Cup Bidding to Avoid Corruption

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(WFI) FIFA has unveiled a four-phase World Cup bidding process to elect the 2026 hosts in an effort to prevent a repeat of the bribery and corruption scandals that tarnished the 2018 and 2022 contest.

At the first meeting of the FIFA Council, the supervisory and strategic body that replaces the executive committee, members agreed to the new system. The bid process starts this month and ends with a vote on the host country in May 2020.

FIFA said it will review its current stance on joint bids, the continental rotation system and the number of teams as part of the strategy and consultation phase, running until May 2017. After the vote for Russia and Qatar in December 2010, a North American bid – a one-nation or joint bid from the USA, Canada and Mexico – is thought to be favourite to secure the 2026 competition. China is tipped to be a strong contender for the 2030 edition.

In his FIFA presidential manifesto Gianni Infantino laid out plans to expand the World Cup from 32 teams to 40. World football’s governing body said the decision on the number of teams, formats and the “eligibility of confederations” to bid was expected by October.

After the controversy over Qatar winning 2022 hosting rights, FIFA has responded by tightening up the bid rules in certain aspects. Qatar was labeled a “high risk” option due to the 50C summer weather but was still elected. A two-year review led to switching the tournament to the Qatari winter to avoid the sizzling heat in the Gulf nation.

In the revamped rules, FIFA has vowed to exclude bidders who do not meet technical requirements.

The furore over Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers involved in World Cup-related construction projects, widely condemned by human rights groups, has also triggered a FIFA rethink. Qatar is trying to address the concerns through a Workers' Welfare Charter.

FIFA promises to ensure bidders comply with human rights requirements at the first bidding stage. They must also meet regulations governing sustainable event management and environmental protection if they are to proceed.

The new-look World Cup bidding system now more closely mirrors the IOC’s revamped bid rules, which also include a clause on human rights and the possibility for regional bids.

The other stages of the four-phase FIFA contest include: enhanced phases for bid preparation (June 2017 – Dec 2018); bid evaluation (Jan 2019 – Feb 2020); vote in May 2020. The FIFA Congress, rather than the executive committee which previously chose World Cup hosts, will elect the 2026 country.

The vote on the 2026 World Cup was initially slated for 2017. That plan was scrapped after the scandal that erupted in May 2015 led to the indictment of FIFA officials for corruption and, later in the year, bans for FIFA’s top two officials, Sepp Blatter and Jerome Valcke.

Infantino’s election and the approval of a reforms package in February made a more transparent World Cup bidding process a top priority.

Other decisions taken by the FIFA Council on Tuesday included a recommendation to the FIFA Congress to accept the applications for membership from the Gibraltar FA and Football Federation of Kosovo. They would become the 210th and 211th FIFA members. If admitted, the countries would be entitled to take part in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

The Benin Football Association was suspended with immediate effect due to government interference.

On Friday, the FIFA Congress meeting in Mexico City will vote on suspensions for Indonesia, Kuwait and Benin.

Among other council decisions, a solidarity grant of $500,000 was approved for Ecuador following a severe earthquake in April. The funds will be used for renovating and reconstructing football facilities within the affected regions.

Uruguay was appointed as host of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2018.

The FIFA Council will expand to include the addition of new members by the time of its next meeting on Oct. 13-14 in Zurich.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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