World Cup decisions, ethics officials and finances on FIFA Congress agenda
FIFA's 211 members meet Thursday in Bahrain for their annual Congress, which takes place against a backdrop of the continuing corruption scandal and major issues affecting the world game.
With President Gianni Infantino battling to restore the organisation's credibility and finances, we take a look at some of the key items on the agenda facing delegates:
1. Fast-track World Cup 2026 decision
Congress is to ratify a decision of the FIFA Council meeting Tuesday in Bahrain that the vote on who stages the tournament will be taken by all its members next year and not in 2020, as initially planned. Only bids from CONCACAF, CAF, CONMEBOL and the Oceania region will be accepted. These have to be submitted by Aug. 11, 2017. UEFA and the AFC are exempt because they are hosting the next two World Cups (Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022).
Over the coming year, FIFA will compile a technical report on all bids, covering a diverse range of areas such as stadiums, infrastructure and human rights. If next year's Congress is unable to select the 2026 host, then bidding will be opened to all of FIFA's six confederations who will vote on the matter in 2020. The FIFA Council's decision represents a slight setback to the United States, Mexico and Canada, who are bidding for the 2026 tournament. They had initially proposed a non-competitive window in which only their bid would be considered subject to a technical report and Congress approval next year.
2. Change how World Cup is awarded
Under existing rules, the tournament cannot be staged in the same region more than once every 12 years. Congress is being asked to scrap this policy "if circumstances require," which could allow emerging football superpower China to make a bid for the 2030 tournament, just eight years after fellow Asian country Qatar hosts the 2022 tournament.
Argentina and Uruguay have already declared that they intend to bid for 2030, as it marks the 100-year anniversary of the first World Cup in Uruguay. FIFA sources have told ESPN FC that the move is a precaution, should the South Americans not have the finances or meet technical requirements to stage the tournament.
3. New World Cup allocation slots
Following the decision to increase the World Cup to 48 teams, Congress is to ratify how places for the tournament will be distributed.
The allocation was drawn up in March by the Bureau of the Council, which is made up of Infantino and the presidents of the Confederations. The distribution of World Cup places for the 2026 tournament is proposed as follows:
AFC: 8.5 slots
CAF: 9.5 slots
CONCACAF: 6.5 slots
CONMEBOL: 6.5 slots
OFC: 1.5 slots
UEFA: 16 slots
4. Update on FIFA finances
As things stand, the books do not look good for FIFA. Its most recent financial report revealed that it made a loss of $369 million last year and forecast a loss of $489 million for the current financial year. With just over a year to go before the Russia World Cup, only 11 of 34 slots for FIFA's sponsorship program have been filled.
News that Qatar Airways had signed a deal to be an official sponsor for the next two World Cups ahead of this week's Congress was timed to reassure members arriving in Bahrain that they have nothing to worry about. Infantino is already committed to giving each one of them $5 million within a four-year cycle for football development programs. A lot is resting on next year's World Cup, the organisation's highest income-generating event, which FIFA estimates will help it turn a $1.07 billion profit. But a lot of that depends on more sponsors signing up and FIFA averting any further corruption scandals.
5. New heads for key committees
Members will decide who leads some of the organisation's most important bodies, which could also have major implications on Infantino's pledge to make FIFA more transparent. They will be presented with a list of names drawn up by the Council, which has already generated controversy.
The tenure of FIFA's leading ethics officials, Hans-Joachim Eckert, chair of the Adjudicatory Chamber, and Cornel Borbely, head of the Investigatory Chamber, will not be extended. They have overseen all the recent high-profile investigations that have led to the banning of some of football's biggest administrators. Subject to Congress approval, Eckert is set to be replaced by Greek judge Vassilios Skouris and Borbely with Colombian lawyer Maria Claudia Rojas. Members will also vote on who leads FIFA's Disciplinary, Governance, Appeals and Audit and Compliance committees.
Vivek Chaudhary covers FIFA and the financial side of the game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @viveksport