FIFA subjects 2026 Morocco World Cup bid to fresh scrutiny
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By ROB HARRIS
Morocco's World Cup bid is facing fresh scrutiny this week with the arrival of another delegation from FIFA after an initial task force found deficiencies in the proposals for the 2026 tournament.
In a downbeat conclusion to the visit by the inspectors last week, Morocco's bid leader acknowledged it had to improve the quality of the submission made to FIFA in March because inadequacies were identified by football's governing body.
The previously unplanned second inspection of Morocco is an indication of the more rigorous process introduced by FIFA following criticism in 2010 that World Cups were awarded to the riskiest nations in 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar).
There will also be closer scrutiny of human rights of the bidders before the vote on June 13 when Morocco is currently due to be taking on a joint challenge from the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The Associated Press revealed last week Morocco did not declare its anti-LGBT law to FIFA in the human rights risk assessment included in the bid book. The documents - along with the North American submission - will now be scrutinized for any gaps by human rights experts.
"That process involves an expert third-party assessment of the robustness of the human rights content of both bids that will directly inform the administration's own evaluation," Rachel Davis, who sits on FIFA's human rights advisory board, told the AP.
"We are confident that the process will result in a fair assessment of the human rights situation in all four countries involved in the bids, and a roadmap for how to deal with any deficiencies that FIFA will then require the successful bidder to commit to."
Davis, who is managing director of the Shift human rights organization, said an evaluation of the human rights in the bidding nations will be included in a report to the FIFA Council, which will also assess the verdict of the evaluation task force. A bid with low scores can be blocked by the council from advancing to a vote of up to 207 football nations at the FIFA Congress on June 13.
While Morocco has said it needs to spend almost $16 billion on infrastructure for the 48-team World Cup, including building or renovating all 14 stadiums, North American does not require any tournament-specific building work. Morocco bid president Moulay Hafid Elalamy said at the end of the FIFA inspection that officials "made some remarks on the conditions of some of the stadiums."
The new batch of technical staff being deployed from FIFA HQ to Morocco did not make a similar follow-up visit to North America after the task force inspected the rival bid's facilities this month.
"Following the visit of the 2026 bid evaluation task force to Morocco last week, it was decided to have an additional working visit this week to complement the initial analysis of the task force and clarify some aspects of the bid," FIFA told the AP.
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports
More AP World Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup
Updated April 23, 2018