Morocco touts gun safety in 2026 World Cup bid against US
Morocco touted its limited threat from gun crime in a 2026 World Cup bidding proposal to take on the United States-led rival for the soccer 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.
Morocco’s decision to point to “very low gun circulation” comes amid the growing call for stricter laws regarding firearms in the U.S. following a school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead.
The U.S. 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.”
The decision on the 2026 World Cup host is due in June at the FIFA Congress.
A closer look at the two bids, based on the documents submitted to FIFA:
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 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 final.
Morocco 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 traveling 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.
North America said there was “no history of football hooliganism” in the three bidding countries — a declaration that relates to only 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.”
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.”
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 June 10 meeting in Moscow.
There might not even be a 2026 World Cup host chosen on June 13 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 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:
— FIFA deputy general secretaries: Zvonimir Boban of Croatia and Marco Villiger of Switzerland.
— Chairpersons of FIFA audit and governance committees: Tomaz Vesel of Slovenia and Mukul Mudgal of India.
— Member of FIFA’s committee for organizing competitions: Ilco Gjorgioski of Macedonia.
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.
AP World Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup