Morocco takes dig at USA by citing low gun-related crimes in bid for 2026 FIFA World Cup

Morocco touted their limited threat from gun crime in a 2026 World Cup bidding proposal to take on the United States-led rival for the football showpiece.

The north African nation highlighted safety for visiting fans in bidding documents published by FIFA on Monday. However, the documents show every stadium and training ground requires building work as part of a $15.8 billion upgrade for the World Cup.

By contrast, the North American bid book says it is the low-risk proposition for FIFA since no infrastructure will be built for the first World Cup after the jump from 32 to 48 finalists.

FILE - A Friday Dec. 1, 2017 file photo of the World Cup trophy placed on display during the 2018 soccer World Cup draw in the Kremlin in Moscow. Morocco has touted its limited threat from gun crime in a 2026 World Cup bidding proposal to take on the United States-led rival for the 2026 soccer showpiece. The North African nation highlights safety for visiting fans in bidding documents published by FIFA on Monday that do however show every stadium and training ground requires building work. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

Morocco are up against a joint US-Mexico-Canada bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. AP

Morocco's decision to point to "very low gun circulation" comes amid the growing call for stricter laws regarding firearms in the US following a school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.

The US is the dominant partner in a North American bid with 60 of the 80 games, while Canada and Mexico would each stage 10 matches. Their bid documents do not reference crime rates or gun issues but stress that the three countries have "long histories of staging safe, peaceful celebrations of international sport."

Morocco also cites an "exceptionally low murder rate" of 3 in 100,000. The latest equivalent figures in North America are 18.7 in Mexico, 5.3 in the U.S. and 1.68 in Canada. The decision on the 2026 World Cup host is due in June at the FIFA Congress.

Morocco has previously bid for the World Cup in 1994, 1998 and in 2006.

The united US/Canada/Mexico bid has been seen as the front-runner for the expanded 48-team tournament. But anxiety has flickered over the possibility that comments from US President Donald Trump could hurt the bid.

Trump triggered an outcry in January after referring to "shithole countries" when discussing a deal which related to immigrants from Haiti and several African nations.

A closer look at the two bids, based on the documents submitted to FIFA:

Stadium costs

In a public presentation this month, Morocco said $15.8 billion would be required to upgrade the country's infrastructure for the World Cup, including $12.6 billion in public spending. This headline figure is not referenced in the bid book.

But Morocco said the government will provide $2.1 billion to renovate or construct all 14 stadiums which will then be owned by the sports ministry. Another $620 million is being allocated for construction at team training camps.

North America tells FIFA that with its bid there is no "need to worry about construction timelines or related risks," although $30 million-40 million is required to install grass at stadiums.

Ticket prices and sales

On ticket prices and sales, there is a big difference in the bidders, who projected sales and revenues on a 12-stadium model requested by FIFA. However, the North Americans plan to use 16 stadiums and Morocco, 14.

The North American bid predicts 80 sold-out games, generating $1.8 billion in ticket revenue.

Morocco's bid forecasts sold-out stadiums for just the opening game, the semifinals and the final, with 90 percent attendance across the tournament. Casablanca would stage the opening match and the final.

The Moroccan bid anticipates FIFA getting $785 million revenue from 3.5 million tickets sold, while North America foresees selling 5.8 million tickets to generate $2.1 billion.

The cheapest tickets for fans visiting Morocco would be $125 for group-stage games and $590 for the final. Supporters travelling to North America would pay at least $174 for group games, and $695 for the final which is proposed for New Jersey's MetLife Stadium close to Manhattan.

The cheapest "Category 4" tickets just for local residents are predicted to be $27 in Morocco and $21 in North America.

Fan Disorder

North America said there has been "no history of football hooliganism" in the three bidding countries — a declaration that relates only to international games.

Morocco acknowledged issues with "ultra" fans — the term associated with often violent supporters — but said the "issue of football-related violence is largely under control at a domestic level."

Playing conditions

The North American bid raises the prospect of "heat illness for athletes or visitors" if there are extreme temperatures and humidity. But the bid said it would work with FIFA to ensure stadiums are "adequately prepared and climate-controlled where possible."

Morocco is more strident in assuring that "environmental conditions do not pose any risk to the health of players and visitors" but it does say that water would be provided "in the event of a heat wave."

Voting day

Even getting on the ballot paper is not certain for North America and Morocco, who must be scored highly enough by a FIFA evaluation panel, then formally cleared by FIFA's ruling council at a 10 June meeting in Moscow.

There might not even be a 2026 World Cup host chosen on 13 June in the Russian capital. FIFA has given its 200-plus member federations a clear path in the formal voting procedure to reject both current bids. On the ballot paper there will be another option: "None of the Bids — Reopen Bidding Process."

If the rejection option wins, a new process lasting months or even years would begin — excluding the United States, Canada, Mexico and Morocco. This would let European and Asian bidders enter a race they are currently barred from because Russia and Qatar will host the two previous World Cups. China could then join the contest.

A first-round winner will be declared if it gets a simple majority, more than 50 percent, of valid votes. Abstentions do not count.

If there is no majority in the first round, but the North American and Morocco bids combine to have more votes than the rejection option, they will advance to a second round where a simple majority wins.

In the ballot paper wording published on Monday by FIFA, the word "America" is not used. It is the "joint bid submitted by the CSA, FEMEXFUT and the USSF ('United Bid')." Voting will be quick and electronic and FIFA will publish member federations' picks when the meeting closes.

Scoring the bids

FIFA published the bid books with a boast from its leader. "I challenge anyone to point out an organization that conducts a bidding process as fair, objective and transparent as the one that FIFA is carrying out for the 2026 FIFA World Cup," FIFA President Gianni Infantino said.

What Infantino did not pledge is an "independent process" because the five-man task force that will make inspection visits, then grade and score the bids, is packed with officials appointed by the president. The task force includes FIFA deputy general secretaries Zvonimir Boban and Marco Villiger, Chairpersons of FIFA audit and governance committees Tomaz Vesel and Mukul Mudgal and Ilco Gjorgioski, who is a member of FIFA's committee for organizing competitions.

Enhancing the powers of the task force was a response to criticism of the dual votes in 2010 for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The now-discredited FIFA executive committee all but ignored the FIFA-produced technical reports that identified Russia and Qatar as the highest-risk bids among nine candidates.

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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2018 17:23:58 IST

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