LONDON, May 25, 2018 - Morocco has won one and lost one in the latest twists and turns surrounding the 2026 World Cup bid battle which ranges the North African country against a cohost bid from the United States with Canada and Mexico.
The loss was a further defection from the ranks of the Moroccans’ African supporters but the win was in seeing FIFA weighing in over the issue of votes by conflicted US territories.
Firstly, Liberia followed the politically-instructed decision of South Africa to vote for United 2026. Musa Bility, the controversial president of the Liberian federation declared in favour of the north/central American bid after “discussions” with new state President George Weah, the former world player of the year.
Bility said that Liberia had long-standing ties with the US and owed a vote of loyalty. Weah’s son Tim, by coincidence, plays for the United States national team.
Secondly, however, Morocco’s bid leaders were encouraged to see FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura setting a deadline of June 11 for all member associations to declare any conflict of interest ahead of a likely World Cup vote at congress in Moscow on June 13.
This is always assuming that the Moroccan bid is approved as appropriate by the contentious evaluation task force which has visited both bidders to assess the realities of claims in their bid books.
Samoura’s letter to all 211 FIFA federations followed a second approach from Morocco 2026 concerning the voting rights of Guam, Puerto Rico, United States Virgin Islands and American Samoa because “the local inhabitants of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands are U.S. citizens; and the local inhabitants of American Samoa are US nationals.”
Her letter quoted article 4.2. of the bidding regulations which state:
Delegates of the FIFA Congress shall, in particular, be considered to have a conflict of interest if they represent a member association whose bid is subject to the designation by the FIFA Council pursuant to article 3 par. 5 above for submission to the FIFA Congress for its final decision to select the host association(s) of the 2026 FIFA World CupTM, or are a national of such member association’s country.
Many observers’ sssessments of the likely outcome of a vote suggest that Morocco could run United close, hence every single vote – never mind four of them – is significant.
Morocco expects to learn next week the views of the evaluation task force which visited both bids last month and upon whose verdict depends whether one or both will go forward to FIFA Council for approval for a vote in congress.
The Moroccans have complained long and loud that FIFA, despite denials, has been changing the evaluation rules along the way in a manner which has favoured United 2026.