LONDON, October 9, 2017 - There will be no secrets, apparently, when FIFA Congress comes to vote on the host of the 2026 World Cup finals. All individual votes cast by the 211 member federations will be open to public scrutiny.
No hiding places any more. Even the votes of individual members of the FIFA Council, which must recommend contenders for a final decision by congress, will be recorded and published.
This is a further step beyond the initial changes introduced to the host selection process after the corruption-riddled scandals surrounding the double vote in December 2010 for the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The subsequent stuttering reform programme saw the World Cup host decision removed from the discredited executive committee which has now morphed into an expanded 38-member council.
Technical assessments of World Cup bidders – also to be published – will be considered by council which must then decide on the ‘finalists’ for decision by congress.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised, in an article in the latest FIFA 1904 monthly magazine, that the current process to select a host for the expanded 48-team finals in 2026 will be “as objective and transparent as it can get.”
Infantino wrote: “Even before I took office, I had already embraced a firm commitment: the process to select the host – or hosts – of the 2026 FIFA World Cup™ could not leave any room for doubt.
“It is FIFA’s responsibility to the world of football to conduct these bidding and selection procedures in an ethical, transparent, objective and unbiased way.”
Observers of the politics of world sport – never mind only football – will be aware that anyone using the word “transparent” usually means precisely the opposite.
This time, however, Infantino and FIFA may prove an exception to the unwritten rule.
He added: “By the time we announce who will host the first 48-team FIFA World Cup, every football fan on the planet should be able to know why that choice was made . . . the process is as objective and transparent as it can get.”
An evaluation taskforce will rate each bid as a guide for council and congress.
Infantino said: “The bid book content, the hosting requirements, the evaluation reports for each candidature, the individual votes by the FIFA Council, the final decision by the Congress: every step of the bidding process will be open to public examination – and, for the first time, the process will be scrutinised by an independent audit company.”
Of course, “open” could have meant only that the overall voting round decisions should be made public.
A FIFA spokesman, asked to clarify this precise point, said: “Each individual vote in a ballot will be made public — both the votes by the members of the FIFA Council and those by the members of the FIFA Congress.”
In practice, the decision for 2026 may not even demand a vote.
The cohosting bid from United States, Canada and Mexico is odds-on favourite.
Morocco has registered an intention to bid but many insiders consider this to have been merely a statement of hosting intent aimed more at obtaining the 2019 African Nations Cup which is likely to be stripped from Cameroon.
The Moroccans’ ability to provide the infrastructure for an expanded 48-team tournament is questionable, to say the least. In the end the CONCACAF trio could land the 2026 finals merely by acclamation.
Hopefully the “open vote” promise will survive to the day when FIFA has to resolve a likely far more competitive process to pick the 2030 hosts.