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FIFA dates clash risks 2026 World Cup vote overshadowing kickoff to 2018 finals

Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin speaks to the media after winning the 2018 bid during the FIFA World Cup 2018 & 2022 Host Countries Announcement at the Messe Conference Centre on December 2, 2010 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman

LONDON, November 15, 2017 - FIFA's decision to stage the 2026 World Cup host vote at congress next year is not good news for the Russian organisers of the 2018 finals.

The United States - in partnership with junior partners Canada and Mexico - is odds-on favourite to win the right to 2026 even if their only rival, Morocco, does not withdraw before the vote.

That decision will be taken next June 13 which is guaranteed to overshadow the run-up to the Opening Match of the Russian World Cup the very next day, also in Moscow.

Gianni Infantino, president of the world football federation, confirmed the date on which Donald Trump could out-tweet Vladimir Putin after last month's meeting of the FIFA Council in India

Back in the autumn of 2002 the then president of FIFA Sepp Blatter had decided, after a particularly angry congress in Seoul, that significant decisions should be removed from the immediate pre-World Cup congress.

On that occasion it was the presidential election which had grabbed all the angry headlines and attention rather than the World Cup kickoff but Blatter might as well also have been thinking about host ballots.

His solution was to shift the presidential election to the year after a World Cup; this would have made sense also for a World Cup host designation. But, at that time, congress was not involved in the process.

The present situation - which offers President Trump plenty of social media opportunities to talk up the United States' status in international sport - has arisen as a consequence of the need to reform the bid operation.

Those scandal-ridden decisions in December 2010 concerning the 2018 and 2022 finals prompted reforms by which the decision was removed from the then executive committee and returned to congress.

Exco or council meetings are staged around the year but a congress of all the world’s football associations - with the exception of the extraordinary 2016 election - takes place only once a year, in late May or early June.

FIFA and Infantino, with its 2026 bidding process under way, could not push a 2026 vote back to 2019 because that will be the next election congress.

Hence the prospect of the 2026 award - and consolatory delight for the US just when their national team are missing the party - overshadowing the 2018 World Cup run-up.

The ideal answer would have been to stage another extraordinary congress later in the year. But that would cost money - and FIFA's losses in the past two years have drawn enough bad publicity.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't - or however the irritated Russians may say it. As if it were not bad enough for them already with Italy and Holland among the star-attractive absentees.

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