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Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Infantino says FIFA can afford Morocco to host 2026 WCup

Reuters , Monday 4 Jun 2018
Morocco
FILE - In this Saturday March 17, 2018 file photo, a giant screen display the logo of Morocco 2026 inside of the reception before a press conference to promote Morocco's bib for the 2026 soccer World Cup in Casablanca, Morocco. (AP)
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FIFA can afford to have Morocco host the 2026 World Cup, according to President Gianni Infantino, even if the rival North American bid promises billions of dollars more in revenue.

Ahead of next week's vote by FIFA member federations in Moscow, Infantino said on Monday: "FIFA can afford whatever the congress decides."

"We have to live with that and to make the best of any decision which is taken," said the FIFA leader, who Moroccan bid leaders have publicly suspected of favoring the joint United States-Canada-Mexico bid.

In a FIFA panel's evaluation of the candidates, the North American bid got the only maximum mark for its tickets and corporate hospitality sales plan.

A difference in projected ticket sales of $1.3 billion between the two bids helped lead the report to note "significantly higher" forecast revenue of $14.3 billion from the North Americans and $7.2 billion from Morocco.

Still, Infantino said "money is one element (but) not the only element" in the report. It also emphasized a significant overall risk posed by Morocco's plan to build or renovate all of its stadiums, almost all team training sites, and many hotels.

"What our task has been is to make sure the process is as objective, as clear as possible and to highlight the pros and the cons of everything," Infantino said.

Up to 207 voting federations, many of whom rely on the $1.5 million annual grant promised by FIFA over the next four years, can ignore the panel's work.

Infantino would not be drawn on whether U.S President Donald Trump's public comments could be a factor in the June 13 poll — either driving voters toward Morocco, or winning them with veiled threats of consequences for countries not supporting the American bid. FIFA will publish how federations voted.

"I hope when they vote they think what is best for football, definitely not on other subjective criteria that they might have for themselves," Infantino said.

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