Recent news reported Morocco’s bid to have gained steam and to have put the USA’s joint efforts in jeopardy.
The United Bid Committee announced a major restructuring of its leadership and now has three co-chairs representing the three partners instead of a US-led campaign.
They give the impression that they are not any longer very sure that they will win, that’s my impression”, says former FIFA president Sepp Blatter
This will be the fifth time Morocco bids for hosting the FIFA World Cup. After unsuccessful attempts in 1994, 1998, 2006, and 2010, the country seems confident as FIFA attribution rules have changed. The 24 executive committee members will no longer make the decision. It will rather be entrusted to the 207 FIFA member associations, a policy change motivated by transparency concerns, as a large number of voting parties reduces corruption risk. The FIFA corruption scandal has been pointed out as the main reason resulting in Russia and Qatar winning the rights to host the World Cup in 2018 and in 2022 respectively. This new process means countries as small as Liechtenstein and as big as Russia will have the same voting weight.
It is no doubt that Morocco lacks infrastructure, stadiums, and other facilities essential to the organisation of such a large event. However, the odds seem to favour Morocco’s bid so far.
First, Morocco being an African country, it can count on the fifty-three African countries to support its bid. Doing the math, this gives Morocco more than half the 104 votes it needs. They are even more likely to vote for the North African Kingdom after the President of the United States recently made crude remarks about the countries, bringing anti-US sentiment to a peak level. This explains the new strategy to push Canada and Mexico to the front of the stage.
Second, Morocco pitches its advantageous, unified time zone, and the short distance and travel time between host cities. The country adopts the Greenwich Mean Time, which is the same time zone of England and has a relatively small area, allowing less than an hour flight between all the main cities. Former FIFA chief Sepp Blatter expressed support for Morocco’s bid, mentioning the logistical challenges caused by the joint bid from Canada/Mexico/United States.
There is big money to be made for the winning bidder. A recent report of the Boston Consulting Group estimated the total money at stake to be more than $5bn dollars, plus enormous employment benefits.
However, it is worth recalling the scandal of Rabat’s stadium during the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup, where heavy rain led to pools of water appearing in the field. At the time, high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Youth and Sports were suspended, and the semifinal was rescheduled last minute to take place in Marrakech due to the disastrous condition of the capital’s stadium.
In addition, the World Cup is extending to 48 teams, making it the largest ever. With Morocco far below meeting FIFA’s requirements in terms of stadiums, it seems fairly unrealistic that the country could host a sports event that big. Analysts have suggested a Morocco/Algeria or a Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia joint bid would have been much more realistic, but the geopolitics of the region simply do not allow such a partnership.
Winner will be announced in a few months. In the meantime, bidders will likely engage in heavy lobbying campaigns.
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