No gifts, no bungs, no collusion. Is 2026 World Cup the most boring FIFA vote ever?

FIFA vote counting

By Andrew Warshaw

January 30 – As serious lobbying for the 2026 World Cup gets under way, FIFA has reminded its federations not to break strict new guidelines when it comes to their dealings with the two contenders ahead of the vote in June.

With football’s corruption scandal far from resolved and a Swiss probe surrounding the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments to Russia and Qatar still ongoing, FIFA are keen to make sure the 2026 process – being contested by the three-nation USA-Canada-Mexico bid on the one hand and Morocco on the other – is entirely clean.

FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura has written to all 211 national associations as well as FIFA Council members warning them not to accept any gifts or bungs or get involved in illegal collusion.

For the first time ever the hosts will be decided not by an all-powerful elite few but by the entire FIFA membership and Samoura writes: “At the 67th FIFA Congress in Manama, all member associations agreed that it was of paramount importance for FIFA and the world of football to conduct the bidding procedure in relation to the Competition in an ethical, transparent, objective and unbiased way.”

To achieve this, she adds, “FIFA fully depends on the close collaboration of all football stakeholders involved in the bidding procedure.”

“FIFA trusts in your full cooperation in ensuring the integrity and fairness of the bidding procedure.”

“FIFA and the bidding member associations can only meet their responsibilities in connection with the bidding procedure if all football stakeholders who are directly or indirectly involved in the administration of the bidding procedure … are likewise fully committed to impeccable and ethical behaviour in relation to their respective involvement.”

“All officials shall reject any attempt to be influenced in relation to their respective function and obligations in relation to the bidding procedure. The perception of what represents an attempt of undue influencing by a third party may differ from case to case and from recipient to recipient. FIFA trusts in your good judgement.”

Although there is now a more democratic process with all FIFA members having a vote, theoretically that widens the possibility of more numerous individual behind-the-scenes deals.

As a result, FIFA are at pains to point out that past misdemeanours must not be repeated.

Samoura’s letter, dated January 26 and titled Guidance on the Bid Rules of Conduct for the process to select the host(s) of the 2026 FIFA World Cup,  urges officials to “reject any gifts and/or other benefits offered by any bidding member associations, any of their bid consultants and/or nominees, unless they: a) only have symbolic or trivial value; b) exclude any influence for the execution or omission of an act that is related to their official activities or falls within their discretion; c) are not contrary to their duties; d) do not create any undue pecuniary or other advantage; and e) do not create a conflict of interest.

“It is well understood that offering and accepting gifts and/or other benefits, such as hospitality, is not uncommon and plays an important role in facilitating business relationships and practice. The acceptance of gifts or other benefits, however, can lead to accusations of unethical, or even unlawful conduct which may seriously harm the integrity of the bidding procedure.

“Therefore, as an underlying principle, in case of any doubt as to whether a gift or other benefit offered to you meets the criteria set out above, do not offer or accept such gift or other benefit.”

“All officials shall refrain from collaborating or colluding with any bidding member associations, other member associations or confederations, or any other third party with a view to unfairly influencing the outcome of the bidding procedure, in particular by entering into any kind of agreement with any bidders, other member association or 4 confederation in regards to the behaviour during the bidding procedure and other bidding processes organised by FIFA or any third party in a manner which may otherwise influence the bidding procedure.”

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