Controversy abounds in Morocco's bid for World Cup 2026

27 April 2018 3 min. read

Morocco’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026, which is the country’s fifth bid for the tournament to date, has become mired in controversy, leaving doubts about whether the bid will be considered. Points of contention include the narrow scope of national conditions portrayed in the country’s bid, as well as allegations of corruption against Morocco and FIFA itself.

North America and Morocco are currently engaged in a fierce contest to host the World Cup in 2026. As is custom, FIFA invited bids from the countries involved, and the Moroccan camp turned to British consulting firm Vero to prepare its campaign. 

Based in London, Vero is a financial services consultancy with a scope of operations that extends across commercial disputes, international arbitration, financial investigations, expert determinations, and a range of other services. One of the firm’s most prominent projects was its preparation of Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup, which prompted Morocco to call upon its services.

The result was a report nearly 200 pages thick, which detailed why Morocco is the ideal place for an international football tournament. One of the primary reasons cited in the report, which has been the root of considerable criticism, is that Morocco is among the safest countries in the world, boasting exceptionally low murder rates. 

Controversy abound in Morocco's bid for World Cup 2026

So ‘safety’ was the angle taken by the Moroccan campaign, which some have interpreted as a slur against the North American bid, given the infamous gun violence problem in the US and the fact that Mexico recently hit its highest murder rate in two decades. With 21 murders per 100,000 people, Mexico is considerably worse off than Morocco at 3 murders per 100,000 people – the same as Denmark and Japan.

However, the problems with Morocco’s bid extend beyond the nature of its bid, into slightly more serious territory. The FIFA World Cup evaluation task force visited Morocco in recent weeks, and uncovered familial ties between FIFA’s Secretary General Fatma Samoura, and El Hadji Diouf, a former Sengalese footballer who is the ambassador for Morocco’s campaign.

Smoura has since been reported to the FIFA ethics committee, to be tried on the grounds of breaching 'duty of disclosure, co-operation and reporting' and 'conflict of interest' stipulations.

In response, anonymous allegations have been raised from FIFA’s upper echelons against FIFA President Gianni Infantino, claiming that the familial link was thin, and was part of a deliberate effort from Infantino to find damming evidence against Morocco’s bid. Reasons for this include expectations that the bid from North America would be much more financially lucrative compared to that of Morrocco.

As a result, senior officials at FIFA have expressed the need to prevent Morocco’s bid from being disqualified, for fear that the allegations of partiality against FIFA will be further substantiated. At any rate, it remains uncertain whether Morocco’s name will be on the list when the time comes to vote in Moscow on the 13th of June this year.

Overall, the environment in Africa continues to be challenging for the organisation of major football tournaments, further exemplified by the Africa Cup of Nations fiasco unfolding in Cameroon, wherein PwC withdrew its services in light of lack of preparedness, while the replacement firm Roland Berger found much to be rectified in its evaluation.