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Industry News

FIFA warns against ‘white elephant’ venues in World Cup bids

FIFA has warned that 2026 World Cup venues which would become so-called ‘white elephant’ stadia will not be welcomed as Morocco goes head to head with a joint proposal from the United States, Mexico and Canada in the battle to stage the national team football tournament.

Morocco last month unveiled 12 proposed cities and 14 stadia as part of its plans for the event. The country’s proposed stadia include five existing venues in Marrakech (95,565), Agadir (46,048), Fez (46,092), Rabat (46,500) and Tangier (65,000) that will undergo redevelopment to meet the requirements of FIFA.

Three new stadia are planned including the 93,000-capacity National Stadium in Casablanca that will be the future home to the national team and host the opening match and final of the World Cup. New stadia with capacities of 45,600 apiece would also be built in Oujda and Tetouan.

Morocco 2026 has also drawn up plans for six Legacy Modular Stadiums (LMS) with capacities of around 46,000 in Casablanca, Marrakech, El Jadida, Meknes, Nador and Ouarzazate. The bid committee said they have all been selected based on their transport and accommodation infrastructure, and local football legacy needs.

The United 2026 proposal, meanwhile, has stated that no new stadia would need to be built should it be successful in its bid, with existing venues to be used instead.

Morocco 2026 has questioned the fairness of the bid process and has taken issue with some of the technical demands that have been placed on the bid committee.

The Associated Press news agency notes that the two bids will be given a rating out of five in sectors such as stadia, teams and referee facilities, along with accommodation and transport. Bids must score at least two out of five in these categories to be considered a viable host.

FIFA told the AP: “In order to avoid unsustainable bids … with the creation of ‘white elephants’ — something FIFA has been heavily criticised for in the past — the scoring system evaluates with objective criteria how meaningful and sustainable is the infrastructure presented in the bids.

“As a matter of principle, the basis of the preparation of a bid should not be the scoring system for the technical evaluation but rather the requirements which FIFA has provided to the bidders in 2017 through the bidding and hosting requirements.”

Image: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil