FIFA suspends bidding process for 2026 World Cup
LAUSANNE - FIFA announced on Wednesday it had suspended the bidding process to host the 2026 World Cup amid the furore surrounding corruption probes at the organisation.
"It was decided to place the administrative process on hold for the 2026 FIFA World Cup bidding due to the current situation," a FIFA statement said.
"Further decisions regarding the 2026 FIFA World Cup bidding process will be discussed by the FIFA Executive Committee at a later date."
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke had announced in March that the host country for the 2026 tournament would be decided at a FIFA congress in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
But football's world governing body was then plunged into a crisis at the end of last month when 14 current or former FIFA officials and sports marketing executives were arrested in Zurich, Switzerland as part of an investigation into alleged corruption by US authorities.
The fallout led to the resignation last week of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, but his replacement will not be known until December at the earliest, leaving the organisation in limbo in the meantime.
"Due to the situation, I think it's nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being. It will be postponed," Valcke said at a news conference in the Russian 2018 World Cup host city of Samara on Wednesday after meeting local officials for a scheduled check on preparations there.
Speaking at a press conference in Paris exactly a year before the start of Euro 2016, UEFA president Michel Platini admitted the news did not come as a surprise.
"There was due to be a vote in 2017 but there is no leadership at FIFA so it's a good thing," said Platini.
The United States, Canada, Mexico and Morocco are among the countries to have expressed some interest in hosting the 2026 tournament, while Kazakhstan said in March that they were examining the possibility of bidding.
Meanwhile, Wolfgang Niersbach, the president of the German Football Association (DFB) who has been a long-time critic of Blatter, used an open letter to German clubs and association members to call for a successor to be elected quickly.
"With all due respect for his life's work, Sepp Blatter does himself, and football as a whole, no favours by drawing out his resignation," Niersbach wrote.
"A new president must be chosen quickly at an extraordinary congress to represent a compelling new beginning."
Niersbach, who insisted "everything was correct" when Germany was awarded the 2006 World Cup, also used his letter to call for "a comprehensive reform" of FIFA.
"It must be our common goal to prevent unscrupulous people being enriched at the expense of football and tighter cash flows are needed," he added.
The decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Qatar and Russia respectively is currently the subject of a probe by Swiss authorities as part of a far-reaching corruption scandal that has also raised questions about the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
But Valcke backed Russia's right to host the 2018 finals, saying the country "has won the right...honestly and one must be crazy to say that all hosting rights were bought.
"Overall the preparations for the 2017 Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup as well as our first major event, the Preliminary Draw, are well underway and on schedule," added Valcke, state news agency TASS reported in English.
"The World Cups need protection. It's the basis of FIFA activity."
The draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers will take place in St Petersburg at the end of July, while preparations are ongoing for the finals, with matches to be played in 11 cities across the vast country.
"Russia is carrying out its duties to prepare for the World Cup with all diligence," the country's sports minister Vitaly Mutko said.
"We took no notice of the politics, we just pragmatically continue our preparations.
"Our meeting took place during hard times for FIFA. It's a big challenge but FIFA is a strong organisation, which develops football and posesses the world's most popular event - the World Cup.
"Anything can happen within the big family. But we all shall unite to overcome these problems."