Morocco urges 'transparent, equitable' vote for 2026 World Cup hosts
CASABLANCA, Morocco -- FIFA president Gianni Infantino has been urged to ensure a "transparent" and "equitable" contest in the race to stage the 2026 World Cup by the head of Morocco's bid to host the tournament.
Infantino, elected as FIFA president in February 2016 following the departure of the discredited Sepp Blatter, insisted earlier this week that the process will be "fair, objective and transparent" after receiving the bid books from Morocco and the combined United States-Mexico-Canada bid.
However, there have been unconfirmed reports that Infantino favours the North American bid -- prompting Morocco 2026 campaign chairman Moulay Hafid Elalamy to insist in Casablanca on Tuesday that "it is difficult in a race when the referee or judge is not impartial."
"I hope the values of equity and righteousness should be the values of FIFA, which I cannot doubt," Elalamy said. "It's very serious that the opinion of a president could change strategic opinions.
"I think [FIFA] went through changes to achieve transparency and I am still convinced that these responsibilities will not allow [Infantino] to have a partial position.
"It's difficult to enter a race and say the referee or judge is not impartial. FIFA needed to reform itself and I am convinced this has been the case."
For the first time, each FIFA member country in good standing will have a vote on the host -- and those votes will be made public.
But the Daily Mail reported last month that FIFA's no-bid television deal for 2026 would see the world football governing body earn an extra $302 million from North American broadcasters Fox and Telemundo if the event is held in the U.S., providing an extra incentive for FIFA to accept the joint bid.
And despite Morocco's admission that it does not possess the stadiums to host a World Cup right now -- the bid leaders insist it would be prepared in 2026 should it win the race to stage the tournament -- Elalamy made it clear the country is a serious competitor as it seeks to become only the second nation to hold a World Cup in Africa.
"We are not acting here," he said. "We are here to win. We have the potential to win and if we should lose, we should accept it in the spirit of sport and none of us can have any regrets as long as the judges, referees and players did their job well because we know we cannot win all the time.
"I think as long as everything is clear and we are convinced that everything is transparent then the best bid will win.
"If our friends [from United 2026] win then we will be the first to congratulate them. If the World Cup should take place in Morocco we will be happier because it will also be an African achievement and it will be deserved because of the work we have achieved which has been serious and professional.
"Everyone is welcome to study our figures and we are confident in terms of our project as long as the criteria are equitable for all. This is most important for me."
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_