Mexico City (AFP) – FIFA revived on Tuesday the process to choose the 2026 World Cup host, frozen since last year amid corruption allegations hanging over the upcoming tournaments in Russia and Qatar.
The FIFA Council’s resumption of the process is one of the biggest decisions by football’s governing body since it elected a new president, Gianni Infantino, in February to clean up its tarred reputation.
The newly created council, which replaced the scandal-plagued executive committee, made the announcement after a two-day meeting in Mexico City ahead of a congress on Thursday and Friday that will discuss FIFA reforms.
FIFA said in a statement that the bidding process was resuming and that the host of the 2026 World Cup will be chosen in May 2020 — with the congress, not the council, electing the winner.
The process was postponed in June due to the corruption scandal centering around the attribution of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 finals to Qatar.
“Things are getting calmer at FIFA,” said Fernando Sarney, Brazilian member of the council.
“Gianni is talking about football, traveling around, trying to bring football back in our conservations, because football was really out of everything,” Sarney said.
– US, China bids? –
Human rights are among the areas that FIFA will examine before awarding the 2026 tournament, a new requirement that was among 25 recommendations made in a report last month by former UN special representative on human rights and business John Ruggie.
Qatar has also come under fire for its treatment of migrant workers, while FIFA has faced criticism for its stance on human rights in Russia, the 2018 hosts.
Sustainable event management and environmental protection will be among the other areas examined by FIFA during a consultation period between now and May 2017.
Candidates will then have to present their bids by December 2018.
Well before a host is chosen, the FIFA Council will decide at its October 13-14 meeting whether to expand the number of teams from 32 to 40 for the 2026 finals — one of Infantino’s election promises.
The proposal has the backing of the smaller football federations, but not the richer championships and the European Club Association.
FIFA could also decide its rotation system that awards the World Cup to a new continent every four years.
This would allow a country like China to bid for the 2026 World Cup, even though 2022 hosts Qatar are in the same Asian confederation.
Mexico’s football federation has voiced its intention to bid for the 2026 tournament, while north American rivals the United States are also interested.
FIFA could also lift its ban, imposed in 2011, on joint bids, which happened only once in the 2002 World Cup hosted by Japan and South Korea.
This would open the door to a rumored US-Canada bid for 2026 or a joint Argentina-Uruguay proposal for 2030.
In other decisions, the FIFA Council gave its backing to admitting Gibraltar and Kosovo, both already recognized by European football body UEFA. If the congress agrees during its Thursday-Friday meeting, Gibraltar and Kosovo could participate in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.