Sun, Jun 03, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Morocco advances to runoff vote for 2026 World Cup

AFP, LAUSANNE, Switzerland

Morocco’s bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup was on Friday cleared to advance to a runoff vote against a bid from North America, despite a FIFA evaluation report that classified the African bid’s stadiums, accommodation and transport as “high risk.”

A long-awaited report from FIFA inspectors left the US-Canada-Mexico bid as the clear front-runner after giving it a rating of four out of a possible five according to its criteria.

Morocco received only 2.7 out of five, but advanced to the June 13 vote in Moscow despite red flags being raised over several critical components of the bid.

A FIFA summary of the bid task force’s findings warned that “the amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated.”

“The bid evaluation task force considers it its duty to emphasize the significant overall risk, on a compounded basis, of a bid that has so many facilities [from stadiums and training sites to major transport infrastructure and accommodation projects] that would need to be built or completely renovated,” the summary said.

Africa has only hosted the global showpiece once before, in South Africa in 2010.

However, although the FIFA evaluation report left Morocco’s bid on the ropes, it is not necessarily a knockout blow.

In 2010, a FIFA evaluation committee flagged Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup as “a health risk for players, spectators, officials” over ferocious heat in the Persian Gulf state in June and July.

Qatar duly won the vote in a shock result in Zurich, Switzerland; FIFA later moved the tournament to November and December 2022.

The corruption-tainted nature of the 2010 vote prompted FIFA to overhaul its bidding process for the World Cup. Whereas the 24 members of the FIFA executive committee previously determined World Cup races, now the hosts are to be decided by a vote of 207 individual FIFA member nations.

Under the revised bidding rules, designed to weed out substandard bids, the task force in theory had the power to dismiss Morocco’s bid, which would have left the bid from the US, Canada and Mexico without a rival in the vote.

The 2026 World Cup is to be the first to be expanded to 48 teams, posing a severe test for hosts.

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