By Andrew Warshaw
April 4 – Morocco’s claim of unfair treatment by FIFA in the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup has been strongly rejected by football’s world governing body which has moved swiftly into face-saving overdrive in an effort to maintain credibility.
Insideworldfootball reported exclusively over Easter that FIFA added previously undisclosed changes to the eligibility criteria in the final hours before the deadline for bid books to be handed over last month.
Morocco say they knew nothing about the last-minute alterations, which they claim affect them far more than the heavyweight USA-Canada-Mexico bid and came as a complete surprise. The timing of the additional requirements makes them technically impossible to be met ahead of the all-important inspection visits by FIFA’s evaluation panel later this month.
So angry were the Moroccans that federation (FRMF) president Fouzi Lekjaa wrote directly to Gianni Infantino, copied to members of the FIFA Council and the Task Force evaluation team, in protest at the apparent delaying tactics.
Rather than reply to Lekjaa (at least at the time of writing), FIFA instead issued a rebuttal of his complaints through the media, further antagonising Morocco’s World Cup bid team.
A statement by a FIFA spokesperson stressed that the process had been designed to end the “secret and subjective decisions” of the past.
“Contrary to what the FRMF implies, the hosting requirements, which were clearly set in the Bidding Registration and other bidding/hosting documents provided in 2017, have not changed,” insisted FIFA, even though Morocco argues strongly to the contrary.
Justifying the scoring system being used to evaluate infrastructure, FIFA tellingly pointed out that it was aimed at avoiding “unsustainable bids, for instance with the creation of ‘white elephants’ – something FIFA has been heavily criticised for in the past.”
“The scoring system was communicated to the two bidders as soon as approved by the 2026 Bid Evaluation Task Force, which is fully in line with the process determined in the Bidding Registration,” FIFA added without providing further details as to why it was transmitted so late in the proceedings.
The reason why the current team of bid inspectors has been given far greater responsibility than their predecessors is because the report that evaluated the 2018 and 2022 World Cup candidates was virtually ignored by the old executive committee when Russia and Qatar were chosen as hosts despite being assessed as the highest-risk contenders.
This time, the Task Force’s recommendations cannot be overturned by the FIFA Council but FIFA’s trouble-shooting attempt to explain the current procedure will only serve to fuel Moroccan suspicions that the evaluation team will take a negative stance about their credentials and possibly throw them out of the contest before the June 13 ballot. Additionally, the makeup of the five-man panel and its support team has been seriously questioned.
Part of the narrative over what has become a highly sensitive issue is that United 2026 already possesses the infrastructure to cope with the first ever 48-team World whereas Morocco has to either build or renovate 14 stadiums that have been earmarked. The underdogs firmly believe, naively or not, that if they are scored high enough to get on to the ballot paper, they would stand a serious chance of upsetting the odds and securing the 104 votes needed for a simple majority.
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