FIFA lifts ban on 2026 World Cup voters publicly backing bid

FILE - In this Friday, June 16, 2017 file photo, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura talks to media during a news conference at the St. Petersburg Stadium, Russia. FIFA has lifted a gag on voters publicly endorsing a 2026 World Cup bid. Soccer’s governing body last month ordered officials not to openly discuss the merits of either the joint Northern American bid or the rival Morocco contender. But FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura informed members this week of an about-turn in a letter to member associations offering new guidance on the bid rules of conduct. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, File)

LONDON — A ban on voters publicly endorsing a 2026 World Cup bid has been lifted by FIFA in the face of criticism from soccer officials.

The governing body last month ordered officials not to openly discuss the merits of either the joint Northern American bid, featuring the United States, Canada and Mexico, or the rival Morocco contender.

It led to Confederation of African Football President Ahmad, who goes by just one name, expressing frustration at being restricted from backing his continent's bid.

But FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura informed members this week of an about-turn in a letter to member associations offering new guidance on the bid rules of conduct.

"All public statements by football officials in support of one bidder are admissible provided that they meet the underlying principles of ethical behavior," Samoura said in the letter. "They shall be limited to genuine support for the preferred bidder and contain no statements against the competitive bidder or requests for bloc voting.

"Officials shall consider whether, from a common sense perspective, the nature and form of a statement can be considered as 'fair' and 'not unduly influencing the bidding process.'"

Samoura acknowledged that the previous rules were "questioned by members of the football community." The entire FIFA Congress, which features 211 soccer nations, is due to vote on June 13 on the 2026 host.

Samoura told member nations that they cannot invite a single bid to present to them at any meeting, including regional confederation congresses, ahead of the vote in Moscow to ensure the "principles of fairness and transparency are respected."

"Please also accept the offer of a presentation by the competitive bidder, offering both bidders the same format and attendance," Samoura wrote.

The World Cup will expand from 32 to 48 teams in 2026. It is FIFA's first men's World Cup vote since the widely discredited dual contest in 2010 for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

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Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

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