KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS — Human rights has joined the issues on which the two prospective hosts for the 2026 World Cup must convince a FIFA bidding evaluation panel.
A five-strong task force empowered by the world football federation is running the rule this week over the North African nation’s bid to win staging rights to the finals in 2026. Morocco faces competition from a cohosting proposal from the United States, Canada and Mexico ahead of a vote by FIFA Congress in Moscow in June.
Stadia, infrastructure, security and finance are major topics to which an assessment of attitudes on human rights has been added since a furore erupted over workers’ rights in Qatar after the Gulf state was awarded the 2022 World Cup by FIFA more than seven years ago.
United 2026, which hosted the FIFA panel last week, insists that it has everything in place and nothing to build by comparison with the Moroccans which are proposing wholesale stadia construction within the government’s long-term national strategic plan.
Coincidentally, a report from the Associated Press agency claimed that its review of documents submitted to FIFA “found Morocco failed to declare its anti-LGBT law as a risk factor and provide a remedy, appearing to flout stringent new bidding requirements.”
AP quoted Ahmed El Haij, president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, and Minky Worden, director of global initiatives for the Human Rights Watch, among critics on the basis that sexual acts between people of the same sex can be punishable by a jail term of between six months and three years.
By contrast, a clause in chapter 23 of the Morocco bid book offering all the FIFA-demanded guarantees, states: “The [Moroccan football federation] president signed an explicit public commitment to ensure that the FIFA World Cup will be an exemplary event from a human rights standpoint, in compliance with all FIFA and other international requirements.”
The evaluation panel visit, taking in proposals for facilities in cities including political capital Rabat, commercial centre Casablanca and tourist-popular Marrakech, is a delicate issue for Moroccan and African confederation officials.
They have complained that the make-up and powers of the task force appear weighted in favour of the United 2026 bid. A sectional scoring system means that, effectively, a bid can be rejected ahead of the FIFA Congress vote on June 13 in Moscow.
Morocco 2026 organisers believe that, if they pass the evaluation test, they can claim significant voting support from Africa, Asia and Europe.
South African support
A number of countries from all three confederations – and two from United 2026’s Caribbean back yard – have already gone public with support for Morocco.
Further statements of support this week have come from the Arab Summit in the Saudi Arabian city of Dhahran and from the South African Football Association.
South Africa is the only previous continental World Cup host and its emblematic success was offered by SAFA president Danny Jordaan as justification for FIFA to award the 2026 finals to Morocco.
Jordaan said: “It is an old myth that Africa doesn’t have the capacity and naysayers should stop using the political argument. Africa hosted the best FIFA World Cup ever and with good support, Morocco can emulate South Africa.”