FIFA crisis means the 2026 World Cup bidding process is on hold

The 2026 World Cup bidding process is being put on hold. The official one, anyway. Not the parallel “can you let me know your bank details, Mr. Warner, I may have a nice surprise for you” process which really decides which countries become hosts. (Allegedly!)

FIFA was planning to make the award (to the U.S.? Argentina? England? North Korea?) in 2017. But these days in FIFA-land it’s hard to say what’s going to happen in two weeks, let alone two years.

And it would be smart to finally settle the destiny of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments once and for all, before jumping into another bidding process. They’re controversial enough, even without the context of – well, you know.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke told reporters in Russia Wednesday it would be “nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being.” Another Valcke highlight: denying any wrongdoing after his name popped up in connection with a $10 million payment from South Africa to the Diaspora Legacy Programme, administered by then-CONCACAF president Warner.

“Why is it FIFA who has to explain the misuse of the money? It was not FIFA’s money. We have nothing to do with this money. I have no more answer about this case,” he said.

That payment is central to the U.S. investigation into FIFA, though Valcke’s not been accused of a crime. But his name appears on a 2008 letter from the South African Football Association asking FIFA to withhold $10 million from the 2010 World Cup organizing committee’s budget.

So a few questions don’t seem unreasonable, along the lines of: who authorised and made the transfer? Was there any oversight? Did anyone check that the Diaspora Legacy Programme was a real and useful thing? FIFA’s attitude can be summed up as: “You’ll have to ask former finance chief Julio Grondona. Oh wait, you can’t! He died last year!”

Anyway, Valcke’s feeling hot under the collar. “You have decided that after Blatter, I have to be the head to cut,” he told reporters, possibly flattering himself.

Meantime, let’s enjoy revisiting these Sepp Blatter quotes from last year, admonishing the English authorities for their sour grapes after losing out on 2018, and encouraging them to try again and end their bitterness about the bid process:

“It’s not important who is the president of FIFA. If England wants to have again a competition then they bid — whoever is the president of FIFA. And they should listen a bit about what is called fair play.

”But, at least, don’t forget that in football, you learn to win but also to lose. So, therefore, I appeal to all those to go back to the essence of football, and then you learn to lose. I have lost a lot of times but, if you lose, then you stay there and you try to be better. And then, stay fair, that’s all. Fair play was invented by England, Great Britain — the beautiful game and fair play. So let’s celebrate fair play.”

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