KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: FIFA appears to have handed the 2026 World Cup on a plate to a CONCACAF ‘consortium’ with Europe in reserve, just in case the United States, Mexico and Canada cannot get their act together.

The virtual invitation for the central/north American trio to set their rivalries aside in the overall regional interest emerged after the concluding second day of the first meeting of the world federation’s expanded council in Zurich.

Much of the time was spent considered the strategic roadmap contained in a document entitled FIFA 2.0: The Vision for the Future. Organisation of future World Cups featured both in those discussions and in a separate agenda item largely concerning its expansion from 32 to 40 or 48 teams.

New house rules for FIFA and its members

A FIFA statement recorded the endorsement of a “general principle” that a three-event rotation should be invoked for 2026, ruling out bids from Europe (Russia 2018) and Asia (Qatar 2022).

Given stability concerns over Africa and South America that effectively left the way clear for the US, Canada and Mexico (or any one or two) since co-hosting is now back in favour.

The latter point was underlined by the statement’s addition “that co-hosting of the 2026 FIFA World Cup will be permitted, not limited to a specific number, but evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”

On probation

Not that the CONCACAF trio should be complacent. particularly since the region  is very much on probation after being the crucible of the multi-million-dollar corruption scandal which will lead to a high-publicity trial starting in New York in November next year.

A warning shot was contained in a rider that: “The FIFA Council will have the power to grant eligibility to member associations of the confederation of the second-to-last host of the FIFA World Cup (ie UEFA) and open the bidding process to any interested MAs from this confederation in the event that none of the received bids fulfil the strict technical and financial requirements.”

It will not have been a coincidence that the European federation was mentioned specifically in this context.

Notably the World Cup ‘principle’ concerned, specifically, only 2026 which has also left the door open for China to pursue the centenary finals in 2030 if South America, the traditionalists’ choice considering Uruguay’s 1930 staging, fail to rise to the bidding challenge.

The choice of the host will be taken in future not by the council but by congress with bids vetted first by what used to be the executive committee. Bids which do not meet the minimum technical requirements can be kicked out of the process even before then to save both money and time.

Not only but also . . .

Other central decisions taken by FIFA Council were as follows:

–organisation of regional ‘executive football summits’, starting in Paris next month;

–confirmation that the annual FIFA awards gala will take place in Zurich on January 9;

–FIFA Congress to be held in Manama (Bahrain) on May 11 (after Kuala Lumpur pulled out);

–Appointment of Canadian civil law specialist Bruno De Vita as second deputy chair of the investigatory chamber of the ethics chamber;

–Appointment of a normalisation committee for the Greek federation;

–Council to meet three times a year, next on January 9 and 10 in Zurich.