Caught in scan­dal, FIFA sus­pends bid­ding for the 2026 World Cup

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ERIC BER­NAUDEAU

FIFA an­nounced on Wed­nes­day it had suspended the bid­ding process to host the 2026 World Cup amid the furor sur­round­ing cor­rup­tion probes at the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“It was de­cided to place the ad­min­is­tra­tive process on hold for the 2026 FIFA World Cup bid­ding due to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion,” a FIFA state­ment said.

“Fur­ther de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the 2026 FIFA World Cup bid­ding process will be dis­cussed by the FIFA Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee at a later date.”

FIFA sec­re­tary gen­eral Jerome Val­cke had an­nounced in March that the host coun­try for the 2026 tour­na­ment would be de­cided at a FIFA congress in the Malaysian cap­i­tal Kuala Lumpur in 2017.

But foot­ball’s world gov­ern­ing body was then plunged into a cri­sis at the end of last month when 14 cur­rent or for­mer FIFA of­fi­cials and sports mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tives were ar­rested in Zurich, Switzer- land as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged cor­rup­tion by US au­thor­i­ties.

The fall­out led to the res­ig­na­tion last week of FIFA pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter, but his re­place­ment will not be known un­til De­cem­ber at the ear­li­est, leav­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion in limbo in the mean­time.

“Due to the sit­u­a­tion, I think it’s non­sense to start any bid­ding process for the time be­ing. It will be post­poned,” Val­cke said at a news con­fer­ence in the Rus­sian 2018 World Cup host city of Sa­mara on Wed­nes­day af­ter meet­ing lo­cal of­fi­cials for a sched­uled check on prepa­ra­tions there.

Mean­while, speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence in Paris ex­actly a year be­fore the start of Euro 2016, UEFA Pres­i­dent Michel Pla­tini ad­mit­ted the news did not come as a sur­prise.

“There was due to be a vote in 2017 but there is no lead­er­ship at FIFA so it’s a good thing,” said Pla­tini.

The United States, Canada and Mex­ico are among the coun­tries to have ex­pressed some in­ter­est in host­ing the 2026 tour­na­ment, while Kaza­khstan said in March that they were ex­am­in­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of bid­ding.

The de­ci­sion to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Qatar and Rus­sia is cur­rently the sub­ject of a probe by Swiss au­thor­i­ties as part of a far-reach­ing cor­rup­tion scan­dal that has also raised ques­tions about the 2010 tour­na­ment in South Africa.

But Val­cke backed Rus­sia’s right to host the 2018 fi­nals, say­ing the coun­try “has won the right to host the 2018 World Cup hon­estly and one must be crazy to say that all host­ing rights were bought.

“Over­all the prepa­ra­tions for the 2017 Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup and the FIFA World Cup as well as our first ma­jor event, the Pre­lim­i­nary Draw, are well un­der­way and on sched­ule,” added Val­cke, state news agency TASS re­ported in English.

“The World Cups need pro­tec­tion. It’s the ba­sis of FIFA ac­tiv­ity.”

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