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Morocco promises all guarantees in World Cup race against time

Morocco wants to stage the 2026 World Cup, but faces strong competition from a three-way bid from Canada, Mexico and the United States. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)
by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman

LONDON, February 19, 2018 - Morocco has promised full government backing with all essential guarantees for the country’s bid to win host rights to the 2026 World Cup finals.

One of the key differences between the lone bid from North Africa and the three-way cohosting favourite from Canada, Mexico and the United States was illustrated by a statement of support from Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani.

The Moroccan government has the centralised authority to tick the finance and security cost boxes set down by world federation FIFA. This is in sharp contrast to United 2026. The latter must coordinate not only the response of three national governments but negotiate the challenge provided by the US federal system.

Already several cities on the United cohosting shortlist, including Miami and Los Angeles which staged the 1994 Final, have balked at FIFA demands ranging from airports provisions to security funding.

The Moroccans are in a race against time to pull their project together in time for a visit in March by FIFA’s World Cup evaluation team.

In the meantime they are irritated that the United bid was allowed to present its plans to the southern African COSAFA group when Morocco claims it was deterred by FIFA from capitalising fully on its staging of the recent African confederation congress on home turf in Casablanca.

El Othmani assured last week's meeting of the Moroccan cabinet that the government would fulfil all the "necessary commitments" to win the bid for 2026 with an endorsement of all the planks being nailed down by the bid committee. This included the involvement of all relevant departments and national sports federations.

This will not come cheap. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, the Minister of Industry, Investment, Trade and Digital Economy, has talked of a "high bill" if Morocco wins the vote in FIFA Congress in Moscow on June 13, on the eve of the Opening Match of the 2018 finals.

Elalamy was also appointed chairman of the bid committee last month.

Morocco and United 2026 must submit the formal application files on March 16 for the first finals to use the inflated 48-team format which had featured as a manifesto promise of Gianni Infantino in his successful campaign to become FIFA president in 2016.

Morocco is proposing that the opening match and final would be staged in a long-projected Grand Stade de Casablanca. The 100,000-seater venue would be located in Mansouriah some 25km from the city centre.

All the initial administrative planning for the long-discussed venue has been undertaken, according to local media, including the issuance of compulsory purchase orders around the site.

A budget for stadia construction has been set at a tentative $1bn. This would include $220m for the Grande Stade plus redevelopment in Rabat, Fez, Marrakech, Agadir and Tangier, the completion of construction in Oujda and Tetouan and new-builds in Marrakech, Ouarzazate, Nador, Meknes and El Jadida.

The biggest challenge for the Moroccans is to surmount the evaluation check which will be submitted to the FIFA Council in Moscow on the day before the award vote in Moscow on June 13.

The Council must decide whether one or both bids meet the criteria to be recommended for a decision by the full FIFA Congress.

In case both fail the evaluation test then bidding would be thrown open to countries from other confederations.

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