By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom
In October 2016, FIFA announced that it was re-implementing its continental rotation policy, which means that the World Cup cannot be hosted in the same region more than once every 12 years.
The effect is that the 2026 World Cup will not be hosted in Europe, because the 2018 World Cup is being hosted in Russia. It is now likely that the 2026 World Cup will be hosted in North America.
England, Columbia, Chile, Uruguay/Argentina (joint bid), New Zealand/Australia (joint bid) and a collective of South East Asia nations have all proposed bidding for the 2030 World Cup. However, FIFA is expected to announce at its congress meeting in Bahrain, to be held on 10 May, that “if the circumstances require” the FIFA Council can decide that the World Cup can be hosted in the same region after skipping only one World Cup.
Should the FIFA Statutes be thus amended, then it is expected that China will bid to host the 2030 World Cup. Under the current Statutes, they would be barred from doing do because Qatar is hosting the 2022 World Cup.
China has previously suggested that it would be interested in hosting the World Cup in 2030, which would surely be part of its much-publicised overall strategy to turn itself into a football “superpower” by 2050.
The wording “if the circumstances require” is particularly ambiguous; and it would be difficult for any FIFA Council to justify that circumstances required China to host the 2030 World Cup, if a number of expected bids are, in fact, made by European countries, when considering that Europe certainly has the infrastructure, commercial sponsors, and audience to host a successful World Cup.
Preparing bids to host the World Cup is a costly and time-consuming process. The English Football Association spent £21 million preparing a bid to host the 2018 World Cup and received only 2 votes out of 22 from the FIFA Executive Council.
No date has yet been announced for awarding the 2030 World Cup. The decision to host the 2026 World Cup is due to be made in May 2020, and, if as previously happened with the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups at the same time, the hosting of the 2030 World Cup could also be decided in May 2020.
It will be interesting to see how the situation develops in the next 3 years and, in particular, whether China decides to make a bid at all!
Jonathan Copping can be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@boltburdon.co.uk’