$11bn promise helps USA-Canada-Mexico land SWC 2026
Fifa (Getty Images)
Johannesburg - Thanks to this week’s groundbreaking events at the 68th FIFA congress in Moscow, international football won’t be the same again.
Scandal-riddled Africa, where the latest saw Ghanaian Football Association and FIFA council member Kwesi Nyantakyi resign after being caught on camera receiving a bribe, can learn a lot from this.
For the first time in FIFA’s more than 100 years of existence, voting for the World Cup hosts was done openly.
While all the 210 member countries of the organisation have always enjoyed one vote each, it has traditionally been done by a secret ballot.
Not this time around.
In a bid to overcome previous scandals and reinvent itself, one of the reforms that the football association came up with in line with its transparency policies was to have an open vote.
When each member went into the booth, all those in the hall could see which country the individual voted for.
Hence the announcement of the votes reflected the 203 eligible voting members, not just the final scores.
The US-Canada-Mexico joint bid won by 134 votes to Morocco’s 65. The remaining four votes were abstentions from Slovenia, Spain and Cuba, with Iran voting for none of the above.
The four bidding countries were barred from voting, while Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands recused themselves from taking part in the vote because of their status as US territories.
It will be interesting to see if FIFA will adopt the same approach when voting for the president and the 36 members of the council in its elections next year.
There was also the landmark decision to award the 2026 World Cup hosting rights to a three-way partnership between the US, Mexico and Canada.
By the look of things, it is going to be almost impossible for a single country, let alone an African one, to host the event henceforth.
Morocco had budgeted $16 billion (R211 billion) in its bid to cover the construction and renovation of infrastructure, including 14 stadiums in 12 cities, 130 training grounds and 12 advanced health facilities.
It will also cover the construction of accommodation facilities that would create a minimum of 5 500 rooms.
South Africa only spent $3 billion for the 2010 World Cup.
The US/Canada/Mexico joint bid promised FIFA an $11 billion profit, while Morocco could only guarantee $4 billion.
The US will host 60 games, including the final, which will possibly be played in New York, while Mexico and Canada will each host 10 games.
Host cities will include Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, Toronto, Seattle and 17 others.
There will be vast distances to cover for those who would like to watch matches in the three countries, as their combined surface area is more than 20 million kilometres squared.
The distances between their capitals are quite vast too, with 3 030km separating Washington, DC, and Mexico City. Ottawa and Washington, DC, are 922.5km apart, while Mexico City and Ottawa are 3 604.93km apart.
The US holds the record for the highest attendance at a World Cup, with 3.59 million people in 1994. Germany drew a close second total of 3.36 million spectators in 2006, while South Africa comes in third with 3.18 million fans who went through the turnstiles in 2010.
The US will be getting its second bite at hosting since 1994, while the Mexicans will have the experience for the third time after being home to the 1970 and 1986 editions.
Canada’s only experience was hosting the Women’s World Cup in 2015.
I’m in agreement with the observation that the Swiss-Italian FIFA president Gianni Infantino and his executives favoured the joint bid because of its “all-round financial superiority, from ticketing revenue to hospitality income and sponsorship allure”.
The 2026 World Cup will be the first to be contested by 42 nations.
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