FIFA has responded to President Donald Trump’s ill-advised tweet about the 2026 World Cup bid with a vague statement about the rules of the bidding process.
Trump, in an out-of-nowhere tweet Thursday night, appeared to threaten countries whose soccer federations don’t support the North American bid to host the 2026 tournament:
The U.S. has put together a STRONG bid w/ Canada & Mexico for the 2026 World Cup. It would be a shame if countries that we always support were to lobby against the U.S. bid. Why should we be supporting these countries when they don’t support us (including at the United Nations)?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 26, 2018
FIFA responded with two sentences, one of which said that it wasn’t really able to respond:
“As a general rule, we cannot comment on specific statements in connection with the bidding process. We can only refer to the FIFA Regulations for the selection of the venue for the final competition of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, and in particular to the Bid Rules of Conduct incorporated therein.”
Those rules of conduct are vague as well. One relevant section (9.1, article iv) – edited for brevity and clarity here – states:
“Member Associations agree and acknowledge that activities conducted by the Governments, as well as the governments of the states and proposed Host Cities and further stakeholders (as applicable) of the Host Countries, which are related to the members of the football community and/or football in general may adversely affect the integrity of the Bidding Process and create an undue influence on the Bidding Process.
That doesn’t specifically outlaw what Trump did or threatened to do Thursday night. But in general, the extensive bid regulations attempt to ensure that hosting rights are awarded on merit, and that voters aren’t influenced by anything other than the quality of the bid. One section of the regulations states:
Member Association(s) shall refrain from attempting to influence members of the FIFA Council, the actual or potential delegates of the FIFA Congress or any other FIFA consultants or other officials, in particular by offering any kind of benefits for specific behavior.
Replace “member associations” with “member associations’ national governments,” and Trump would have violated the regulations.
[The rule] mostly concerns soccer federations’ bylaws and countries’ laws, and cross-pollination involving the two entities. FIFA wants the federations operating independently. But it has been known to inconsistently and selectively enforce the rule. Trump’s tweet would seemingly be worth a warning at the very least.
But the bigger issue [with Trump’s tweet] is that, because of FIFA’s rule, the United States government’s “support” of other nations at a political level has nothing to do with who will vote for whom on June 13. Countries don’t vote; their soccer federations do. If politicians are influencing those federations, that constitutes government interference, and FIFA can take action.
The North American bid committee has said it has the full support of the White House. But, as explained yesterday, Trump would be best served staying as far away from the bid as possible.
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