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FIFA report highlights stadia worries for Moroccan World Cup bid

Hosting rights for the 2026 FIFA World Cup are set to be put to a vote later this month, but world football’s governing body has spelled out the “high risk” posed by Morocco’s stadium plans when compared to the proposal put forward by rival bidder, United 2026.

FIFA has released a report issued by its Bid Evaluation Task Force, with the North African country now set to compete against United 2026 – which is comprised of the United States, Canada and Mexico – in a public vote staged at the Fifa Congress in Moscow on June 13. Either bidder could have been disqualified if it had scored less than two out of five in the overall average scoring in the Task Force report, and less than two on key measures including stadia.

Morocco 2026 was given a total score of 275 out of 500 in the report, for an average of 2.7 out of five. The Task Force issued evaluations of high, medium and low risk across 20 different sectors, with Morocco 2026 deemed to have a high risk for stadia, accommodation and transport, with a further 10 items said to be of medium risk. The Task Force gave Morocco 2026 a score of 2.3 for its stadia proposals.

United 2026 gained an overall score of 402 out of 500 for an average mark of four out of five. United 2026’s bid was only said to be of medium risk for organising costs, government support and human rights/labour standards. All 17 of the other sectors, including stadia, were judged to be of low risk.

Morocco 2026 plans to host the World Cup in 12 cities across 14 stadia. However, nine of these will be new venues, while the remainder will have to be renovated. By contrast, United 2026 currently has a list of 23 host cities and stadia, which will be cut to 16. Seventeen of these stadia are ready to host matches, with only six needing renovation. United 2026 was granted a score of 4.1 for its stadia plans.

In its report, the Task Force said: “As Fifa’s flagship tournament, taking place only every four years, the Fifa World Cup also acts as a hub of sporting innovation, with a responsibility to push new boundaries in terms of sports-related technology and engagement.

“The United 2026 bid has a clear lead in this area, with all major infrastructure already in place, allowing Fifa to focus on a number of exciting initiatives relating to sports science, fan engagement, multimedia interaction and other new forms of digitalisation.

“The amount of new infrastructure required for the Morocco 2026 bid to become reality cannot be overstated… the Bid Evaluation Task Force considers it its duty to emphasise the significant overall risk, on a compounded basis, of a bid that has so many facilities (from stadiums and training sites to major transport infrastructure and accommodation projects) that would need to be built or completely renovated.”

Regarding the Morocco 2026 bid, the Task Force added: “Accommodation was assessed as being the largest challenge facing the Morocco 2026 bid. Only two of the 14 proposed stadiums would have sufficient levels of general accommodation to meet the minimum requirements.”

Image: Danilo Borges/Portal da Copa Licença Creative Commons Atribuição 3.0 Brasil