FIFA Said to Change World Cup Process Before Corruption Arrests

  • Executive board agrees to changes to reduce corruption risks
  • Human rights also included in new World Cup bidding process

Days before the dawn raids on soccer’s governing body, FIFA’s executive committee agreed to revamp how future World Cup hosts will be chosen to eliminate potential sources of corruption and human rights violations, according to a senior FIFA official.

Among the changes would be a ban on bidding countries from investing in development projects outside their home country, said the official, who requested anonymity because the information is private. The changes still need to be ratified. Contenders in the 2010 campaign that ended with Russia and Qatar winning hosting rights for the next two World Cups had been asked to show how they have helped the sport develop.

A FIFA spokesman referred inquiries to a statement published on Monday. The statement said the group’s executive committee had approved “a framework” for the 2026 bidding process which it would announce at a later date.

Swiss prosecutors seized documents from FIFA’s Zurich headquarters Wednesday as they opened a criminal investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, decisions that continue to roil the organization years after the 2010 vote. Several officials involved in the selection faced accusations of accepting kickbacks.

Russia and Qatar have denied they acted improperly to secure the sport’s most-prized event, a competition that’s expected to generate more than $5 billion for FIFA.

Other proposed changes include publishing how each member voted, the appointment of a compliance officer for each bid team and a stipulation that data be kept throughout the process and retained until well after the winner is chosen, according to the person.

The potential changes will also include a clause on human rights, the person said. FIFA has been under pressure to act over the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar following the deaths of mainly South Indian laborers brought in to work on World Cup projects. Russia also faces human rights challenges, and has been criticized about racism and homophobic incidents at soccer stadiums.

North American Bids

FIFA President Sepp Blatter had in recent weeks given hope to the U.S. and other potential bids from the North American and Central American region, saying he would lobby to exclude a Europe from taking part in the competition to stage the 2026 event because of the proximity of the Russian World Cup.

Executives appeared to be in favor of such a proposal, according to the person, who was present during the discussions. The person said there was a general acceptance that the World Cup shouldn’t return to the same region for at least two cycles.

FIFA said in 2011 it would extend the vote for World Cup hosts to its entire 209-nation membership.