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Morocco blasts FIFA’s last minute changes to World Cup hosting criteria

April 4, 2018 at 1:08 pm

FIFA flag [Thomas Couto/Flickr]

Morocco has condemned a last minute change in FIFA’s scoring system for the 2026 World Cup host bid as an “unfair” attempt to favour the joint North American bid.

In a letter to FIFA Chief Gianni Infantino, the head of Morocco’s football association (FRMF), Faouzi Lekjaa, blasted the scoring criteria for changing only 24 hours before Morocco submitted its bid.

“To my great surprise the scoring system was only finally transmitted to us on March 14” – 24 hours before Morocco handed in its dossier and 48 hours before the FIFA-imposed deadline,” Lekjaa said in the letter.

According to football website Insideworldfootball, FIFA added previously undisclosed changes to the eligibility criteria in the final hours before the deadline for bid books to be handed over.

Morocco believes the criteria changes were put in place in favour of the joint US, Canada and Mexico bid which would place Morocco at a disadvantage which has expressed its “concerns about the equity and transparency of the bidding procedure”.

Read: Algeria supports Moroccan bid to host 2026 FIFA World Cup

Under the scoring system a country’s infrastructure accounts for 70 per cent of the panel’s mark and the remaining 30 per cent is then based on projected costs and revenues. Scoring between zero to five, where zero means “no requirements met/very weak” and five is “requirements exceeded excellent,” a country’s bid must average a total of two to be approved ahead of the vote on 13 June which will take place in Moscow.

A country must score at least two for aspects such as stadiums, teams and referee facilities, and quality of accommodation and transport links. Failure to do so means a bid “has been evaluated as `high risk’ and represents a material failure,” and FIFA will then terminate the bidding registration.

These criteria will prove difficult for Morocco particularly with regard to demands such as guaranteeing that host cities have populations of at least 250,000, minimum airport capacity of 60 million passengers a year and a maximum 90-minute distance between airport and host city.

“In effect, the scoring system adds several new technical criteria which were not part of the original regulations,” writes Lekjaa. “These elements were never conveyed to the FRMF during the preparation of the bid book.”

Though Morocco has gotten the support of most Arab states, Saudi Arabia has chosen instead to lend its support to the joint American bid. Chairman of the Saudi general Sports Authority (GSA) Turki Al-Sheikh met with Carlos Cordeiro, the president of the United States Soccer Federation, to express Saudi’s endorsement of the American bid.

The Saudi chairman’s move has been criticised as a political move and one that places the country’s bilateral relationships with the US over Arab support for Morocco’s bid.

“Friendship and fraternity have been very detrimental to the Saudis… what really matters to me is that the 2026 World Cup needs to be hosted in the best conditions,” Al-Sheikh explained last month, hinting at Saudi’s backing for the US bid.