Sun. May 26th, 2024

He was tasked with cleaning up FIFA.

And there is credit from Miguel Maduro for more rigorous spending controls since Gianni Infantino replaced the discredited Sepp Blatter.

But the former governance chief of football’s governing body has told Sky News of concerns FIFA has “backtracked” and the biggest decisions appear to lack transparency and openness again with World Cup hosts “cooked internally”.

The months of scrutiny and campaigning before a big reveal have been eradicated with opponents limited and deterred in a fast-tracked route for Saudi Arabia being handed the 2034 men’s showpiece.

Any pretence of a process after Mr Infantino undercut FIFA’s insistence bidding assessments were still required by effectively confirming the kingdom’s win on Instagram on Tuesday night.

“They have not changed with the reforms of 2015, unfortunately,” Mr Maduro, a former advocate general at the European Court of Justice, told Sky News.

“I thought it was only a matter of time until they will go back to publicly do things as they have always done in the past in this opaque, non-transparent, non-accountable way.”

FIFA provided no direct response to his claims, but the governing body last week insisted it is now run with the “highest ethical and governance standards” in a statement on a separate matter.

The World Cup is the jewel in FIFA’s crown – generating most of its £6.6bn revenue in the 2019-2022 cycle covering Qatar 2022.

Staging the tournament provides countries a platform to brandish their clout on the world stage beyond the sports sphere and attempt to cleanse their image.

The contentious dual award of Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 during a tainted vote in 2010 led to the Blatter-era leadership being toppled and reforms that handed the hosting decision to the congress of 211 football nations.

So, the 2026 World Cup was a hotly contested decision with Morocco losing to the combined United States-Canada-Mexico entry with the voters’ picks all made public.

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Saudi Arabia is set to host the men’s 2034 World Cup

But there will not be multiple options presented to the congress for 2030 and 2034 after FIFA’s leadership secured ratification from its ruling council of 37 members for a process that effectively ensured sole bidders.

It was suddenly announced four weeks ago that the rival bids for the 2030 World Cup were being combined to create an unprecedented six-nation, three-continent event across Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

After the same FIFA Council meeting a rapid process for the 2034 tournament was unexpectedly revealed that gave countries until this Tuesday to submit their interest.

The timeframe was too tight for a country like Australia to pursue its planned bid – especially with its own Asian Football Confederation already lining up behind the Saudis.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson told Sky News: “We had some conversations with people around FIFA about what our chances might be for the 2034 men’s World Cup. And ultimately, I like to bet on sure things. I didn’t feel that we had enough to win.”

Everything had been aligning towards Saudi Arabia which has wooed Mr Infantino in recent years and he has been enchanted by the kingdom welcoming him into its gilded power circles.

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6:00

Infantino insists FIFA has been a ‘pioneer’ for the women’s game

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Regular encounters with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and trips to Saudi have paid off for the oil-rich nation – securing the most prestigious football event without any vote after a favourable process that required only four existing stadiums of the 14 required by FIFA in time for 2034.

Mr Maduro said: “They promised a much higher degree of transparency on how the bidding was going to take place. We saw nothing of that type in this process.

“Basically, it is something that was cooked internally, within what I usually call the political cartel that dominates FIFA, in such a way that there is no option now but basically the award of the two World Cups to pre-established candidates.”

There are certain commitments to publish an evaluation of the uncontested bid but it is unclear how public the human rights risk assessment will be of anti-LGBTQ+ laws, women’s rights and working conditions.

Mr Maduro said: “Whatever assessment will take place now will be meaningless, because everybody knows who is going to get it.”

FIFA removed Mr Maduro from its position chairing the governance committee in 2017 after less than a year in the role at the start of the Infantino presidency.

Image:
The awarding of the men’s 2022 World Cup to Qatar by FIFA proved to be highly controversial

The lawyer said from Portugal: “There were a series of promises and commitments that were made after the scandals of 2015.

“Some of those commitments were regarding precisely how the World Cup was going to be awarded and the bidding process was going to take place.

“And basically what this tells us is that FIFA has not lived up to those commitments and those promises – it has actually backtracked on the reform process that they had initiated.”

FIFA insists the spread of nations for the 2026, 2030 and 2034 World Cups promote inclusion.

But it’s the men being prioritised.

The next Women’s World Cup is four years away and without a host.

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The post FIFA has ‘not changed’ and decisions still lack transparency, says former governance chief appeared first on WorldNewsEra.

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