(ATR) FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised a “fair and transparent” World Cup bidding race.
World football’s governing body said it had received official bid dossiers from the two 2026 bidders – a joint application from the U.S., Canada and Mexico and one from Morocco.
The five-member 2026 bid evaluation task force, including FIFA deputy secretaries general Zvonimir Boban and Marco Villiger, will assess the bids and conduct inspection visits in April or May ahead of the FIFA Congress World Cup vote on June 13. Their bid evaluation reports will be made public.
The bidding process is the first one since the scandal-tarnished race for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar amid great controversy over bribery and corruption allegations.
“I have been dealing with the evaluation of bids for over 20 years, in several different capacities, and I challenge anyone to point out an organization that conducts a bidding process as fair, objective and transparent as the one that FIFA is carrying out for the 2026 FIFA World Cup,” says Infantino in a statement.
“FIFA has been heavily criticized for how it conducted the selection of hosts in the past; it was our obligation to learn from this and leave no room for any doubt or subjectivity.
“This is why the rules of this process have been clear and objective from the beginning, and they include the highest standards in terms of ethical conduct, participation and commitment to sustainability and human rights,” he added.
Infantino said the 2026 bid evaluation team had to ensure the two World Cup contenders met the eligibility criteria to host FIFA’s quadrennial showpiece, which has been expanded from 32 to 48 teams.
“These are necessary steps to ensure that we never go back to the ‘old ways’.”
The shake-up of FIFA’s World Cup bidding process that arose out of the much-criticized 2018/2022 contest led to approval of a new bid evaluation model by the FIFA Council last October.
The FIFA task force will look at bid compliance, overall risk and deliver a technical evaluation.
The technical evaluation adopts a scoring system to rate and attribute a weight to each of the nine infrastructural and revenue-related criteria.
Based on the final assessment, the FIFA Council will make its recommendation – but the final decision on the destination of the 2026 World Cup is in the hands of the 211 member associations at the FIFA Congress.
At the world football federation’s 68th congress in Moscow, the bids from U.S.-Canada-Mexico and Morocco will each have a 15-minute slot to pitch their bids to FIFA’s membership. They will follow a presentation by the 2026 bid evaluation team.
There will be an opportunity for FIFA members to debate the bids’ proposals before the vote. A simple majority in the first ballot is required to win World Cup hosting rights.
The United bid has proposed 23 candidate cities in its bid book – including three in Canada and three in Mexico – though this number would be cut if it won hosting rights.
Under the U.S.-led bid, there’s little investment or work required to upgrade stadiums and infrastructure for the 2026 tournament. But Morocco has much to do to expand and renovate its football venues to meet FIFA’s exacting requirements.
The United bid is more commercially attractive to FIFA, offering significantly more revenues from North American broadcasters under a contentious deal struck by disgraced former general secretary Jerome Valcke.
The U.S. staged the 1994 World Cup and was unsuccessful in its quest for the 2022 tournament which went to the oil-rich nation of Qatar.
The 2026 campaign is Morocco’s fifth bid for the World Cup.
On Sunday, the football associations in Serbia and Luxembourg threw their support behind Morocco’s bid. It has already garnered significant African support as well as Russia’s backing.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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