By Andrew Warshaw
June 25 – The vote later today for the right to stage the 2023 women’s World Cup is likely to be much closer than anticipated after it emerged that UEFA has controversially called on its nine FIFA Council members to back outsiders Colombia, according to sources close to the bid process.
Insideworldfootball has learned that despite the evaluation panel giving the joint bid of Australia and New Zealand a far higher rating in virtually all aspects, European nations among the 35 voting members of the Council have been requested by the UEFA hierarchy to opt for Colombia in the two-horse race, partly in order to support a co-operation pact renewed in February between UEFA and Conmebol.
It is understood UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin personally endorsed Colombia’s candidacy during a meeting with colleagues in the build-up to today’s ballot by video-conference.
Such a move could be interpreted as flying in the face of efforts in recent years to modernise the voting process following the highly contentious ballot 10 years ago for the 2018 and 2022 men’s World Cups which produced surprise winners in Russia and, in particular, Qatar.
Qatar won the right to stage 2022 despite being lowest-ranked in the evaluation process. One of the knock-on effects of that was to make each vote public which is what happened for the 2026 men’s World Cup – which went to the USA , Mexico and Canada – and will happen again following today’s result.
Australia and New Zealand are likely to gain the support of the seven Asian FIFA Council members following the withdrawal of Japan’s bid and, most probably, that of FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
But if UEFA’s nine members heed the call to go for Colombia, which can also count on the support of Conmebol, it could be incredibly close in what is a straight majority process, with 18 of the 35 votes needed for victory. Ultimately the votes of Concacaf and the Confederation of African Football could prove crucial, as could the behind-the-scenes influence of Infantino.
Whilst it is not known whether all the European nations will actually end up voting as a bloc, the English FA will be one of those whose position will be seriously examined.
Ever since their botched 2018 World Cup bid when they received just two votes, the English FA have been at the forefront of welcoming a more transparent, modern approach to the voting process to allay suspicions of foul play.
Were they to ignore the inspection report that so clearly rated Australia and New Zealand superior to Colombia and also ignore taking the women’s World Cup to the southern hemisphere for the first time, their eagerness for greater integrity would be seriously called into question. On the other hand, it is being suggested they might be prepared to go their own way and against the recommendation of the UEFA leadership.
There is little doubt that handing the tournament to Colombia would represent a massive boost in a country where women’s football is massively under-funded. Perhaps its biggest plus point is that FIFA is known to be keen to grow the women’s game in the region. But will that be enough?
Last week the president of the Colombian FA, Ramón Jesurún, and the Conmebol president, Alejandro Domínguez, complained in a joint letter to the FIFA Council of the “erroneous and discriminatory conclusions” in the inspection report.
Yet in something of a diplomatic faux-pas, they seemed to forget that the FIFA Council includes six female members.
Insideworldfootball has seen extracts of the afore-mentioned letter to the FIFA, the last paragraph of which starts: “Gentlemen, we petition your objective consideration of the motives we have stated in this letter when casting your vote.”
Such an omission may not necessary lose Colombia votes but it wasn’t exactly the most tactful of sentences when it comes to gender equality, given this is the biggest global event in women’s football.
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