Morocco bid for FIFA World Cup Football 2026 hangs in balance

27 April 2018 4 min. read
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The official bid from Morocco to host the 2026 World Cup hangs in the balance after a succession of criticisms left sources at FIFA doubtful as to whether it would even reach a vote against a rival bid from North America. The bid, which was overseen by London consultancy Vero, focused on the North African nation’s gun control policies and “exceptionally low” rates of murder, but has since been under investigation following allegations of institutional nepotism.

Morocco’s current bid is the nation’s fifth attempt to host the World Cup, having offered their services in 1994 – when they lost out to the USA, also part of a bid this time – as well as in 1998, 2006 and 2010. As the North African Kingdom prepares to send a team to its first World Cup in 20 years, having qualified for Russia 2018, they will hope their return to football’s top table will boost their profile in the global game. The last time Morocco attended the World Cup, they failed to venture beyond the group stage, having been drawn against Brazil, Scotland and Norway. In Russia, Morocco are due to face Iran, 2010 winners Spain, and current European Champions, Portugal. 

The initial bid was managed by British consultancy, Vero. The London-based firm with a history of managing successful bids for the FIFA World Cup, having been behind the successful campaign which saw Qatar controversially named the hosts of the World Cup in four years’ time. In a bid to become only the second African country to have hosted the World Cup, Morocco reportedly hired the international communication and reputation consultants to manage its 2026 World Cup bid. 

The actual proposal was met with mixed reviews however. Morocco’s 193-page document to FIFA, highlighting why it believed it is "a showcase for the best of football", claimed the Kingdom is "one of the safest countries in the world" and will offer "an ideal security environment" for the tournament. While some suggested that Morocco’s dossier contained a certain charm due to its apparently limited scope, though, others were keen to point out that it seemed to be a clear jibe at the nation’s only rival bid from North America.

Mexico, also part of the alliance including the USA and Canada, Mexico had a murder rate of 21 per 100,000 population in 2017 – the highest figure since modern records began in 1997. Meanwhile, with gun control debates still raging in the United States, as legislators remain reluctant to act on a continued spate of mass shootings thanks to America’s powerful gun-lobby, Morocco’s bid boasted of "Exceptionally low murder rates (three per 100,000 people), benefitting from very low gun circulation, are reflected in a United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) study ranking Morocco among the best-performing nations in the world - at the same level as both Denmark and Japan."


This was not the only area where the Moroccan appeals to FIFA have drawn criticism either – with football’s global governing body having to apply intense scrutiny to even faint hints of impropriety as it attempts to rebuild its damaged reputation. In 2015, FIFA launched an internal probe into its operations, conducted by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, an independent and external law firm, amid allegations of bribery which had helped to sway the bidding process for a succession of World Cups.

While claims leveled at Morocco pale in comparison to Qatar’s fresh allegations of a supposed “secret deal” worth $100 million, they have been severe enough that some FIFA officials have warned the bud might not be permitted to contest a vote against the North American efforts. The vote is currently due to take place in Moscow on June 13th, during the Russian World Cup.

Members of a Fifa World Cup evaluation taskforce – which recently visited the bidding countries – reportedly discovered an undeclared family link between one of FIFA's most senior executives, Fatma Samoura, and former Liverpool and Senegal forward El Hadji Diouf, who is working in an ambassadorial role for the Moroccan bid. Samoura, who was appointed secretary general of football's world governing body by its President Gianni Infantino in 2016, is accused of alleged breaches of its ethics code relating to "duty of disclosure, co-operation and reporting" and "conflicts of interest", and has been reported to the organisation's powerful ethics committee.

The footballing  organisation could yet be left in disarray on the issue, meanwhile, after an anonymous senior FIFA source told the press that the allegation was "tenuous", and claimed Infantino had "encouraged" the evaluation taskforce to find evidence that could block Morocco's candidacy, as he favours the rival North American bid given the enormous financial advantage it has over its African rival.

This prompted Reinhard Grindel, a FIFA council member from Germany, to comment to the Associated Press that inspectors must avoid disqualifying the Morocco bid, in order to prevent any conspiracy theories from taking hold.

Grindel elaborated, "If there are only two [candidates], the congress must have the chance to vote. We don't need any rumours in such a process."