The first part of this two-part blog examined the new bidding
regulations adopted by the IOC and UEFA, and concluded that it is the latter
who gives more weight to human rights in its host selection process. This
second part completes the picture by looking at FIFA's bidding regulations
for the 2026 World Cup. It goes on to discuss whether human rights now constitute
a material factor in evaluating bids to host the mega-sporting events organised
by these three sports governing bodies.
FIFA: 2026 World Cup
About the host selection
States, Mexico, and Canada together on the one side and Morocco
on the other are bidding to host the 2026 World Cup. The bidders must now
prepare and submit their Bid
Books to FIFA by no later than 16 March 2018, providing the world's
governing body of football with information regarding their hosting vision and
strategy, the country's political system and economic situation, technical
matters, other event-related matters, or human rights and environmental
protection. FIFA will then commission
a Bid Evaluation Task Force,
composed of the chairman of the Audit
and Compliance Committee, the chairman of the Governance
Committee, one member of the Organising
Committee for FIFA Competitions, and certain members of the General
Secretariat with relevant expertise, to prepare a written report evaluating
each bid. This report will be split into three sections, namely (i) compliance
assessment; (ii) an assessment of the risks and benefits of each bid, including
the risks of adverse impacts on human rights; and (iii) an assessment of key
infrastructural and commercial aspects of each bid, including stadiums,
transport infrastructure, organising costs, or estimated media and marketing
The Bid Evaluation Task Force will apply a scoring system that might eventually
lead to the exclusion of a bid from the host selection process in the event of
its failure to reach a required minimum score.
It is critical to note, however, that this scoring system will only be used to
evaluate infrastructural and commercial aspects of each bid.
In other words, human rights or environmental protection are not subject to
this scoring system.
The Bid Evaluation
Task Force will forward its report to the members of the FIFA Council who will
determine whether or not each bid qualifies to be voted on by the FIFA
While until now the decision on the venue for the FIFA's flagship event has been
taken by the Council (formerly the Executive Committee), the host of the 2026
World Cup will be elected for the first time by the members of the Congress.
The Congress will meet for this purpose in June 2018 and it may either award
the right to host the tournament to one of the candidates or reject all bids
designated by the Council.
In the latter case, FIFA will launch a new procedure that will culminate with a
final decision in May 2020.
It is also worthwhile noting that the entire host selection process will be
overseen by an independent audit company.
Human rights as
A number of human rights requirements could be found across
different bidding documents relating to the host selection process for the 2026
World Cup. This section takes a closer look at the content of these
First, each member
association bidding to host the tournament must undertake to respect all
internationally recognised human rights in line with the United
Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UN
Importantly, this commitment covers not only the member association's own activities,
but also the activities of other entities that are in a business relationship
with the member association, be it for the production of goods or provision of
services. In this respect, FIFA acknowledges that ''a significant part of human rights risk may be associated with the
activities of third parties''.
requires that each bidder provide a human rights strategy outlining how it is
going to honour its commitment mentioned above.
While a similar requirement also appears in the UEFA's bidding documentation
for the Euro 2024, FIFA is much more specific in defining the essential
elements of this strategy. Accordingly, the strategy shall include a
comprehensive report ''identifying and
assessing any risks of adverse human rights impacts […] with which the member
association may be involved either through its own activities or as a result of
its business relationships''.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the entire host selection process is the
follow-up requirement that this report be complemented by an independent study
carried out by an organisation with recognised expertise in the field of human
This independent expert organisation will examine to what extent does the
national context, including the national legislation, influence the member
association's capacity to respect all internationally recognised human rights.
As part of their strategy, the bidders should further explain what measures
they intend to take in order to mitigate any human rights risks identified in
the comprehensive report.
Moreover, the strategy should contain information about the implementation of
an ongoing due diligence process, the plans for meaningful community and/or
stakeholder dialogue and engagement,
the protection of human rights defenders' and journalists' rights, or grievance
Third, each bidder
must provide a report summarising its ''stakeholder
engagement process implemented as part of the development of the […] human
Fourth and last, the government of each country bidding to host the 2026 World
Cup shall express its commitment to: (i) respecting, protecting, and fulfilling
human rights in connection with the hosting and staging of the tournament; and
(ii) ensuring that victims of human rights abuses will have access to effective
remedies. To this effect, each of
the involved governments is required to sign a separate declaration.
A comparative overview
It remains to be seen whether the new bidding regulations will help
reduce the number and severity of adverse human rights impacts linked to
mega-sporting events. For the time being, it is essential to identify the
strong and weak points of these regulations.
When discussing strengths, FIFA and UEFA come to mind. Both
organisations should be applauded for demanding that the bidders pledge to
respect and protect internationally recognised human rights independently of the
locally recognised human rights.
FIFA moreover extends this obligation to the activities of third parties that
are in a business relationship with the bidding member association. Both FIFA
and UEFA also ask for a human rights strategy that should include some crucial
information such as evidence of meaningful consultation with potentially
affected communities. Again, FIFA goes one step further by requiring that this
strategy be accompanied by an independent expert study.
All three sports
governing bodies reserve the right to assign a role to independent human rights
experts in evaluating or preparing bids.
And while this is in itself commendable, it should be noted that such a role is
limited because it does not entail decision-making competences. For instance, the
expert institution responsible for developing an independent study in the host
selection process for the 2026 World Cup will not have the power to exclude a
bid if it ascertains that the national context significantly undermines the
member association's capacity to respect internationally recognised human
rights. This expert institution will certainly put more pressure on FIFA in the
sense that any action contrary to the institution's recommendations will have
to be publicly justified by compelling reasons, but FIFA may nevertheless
decide to consider a bid even if it entails serious human rights risks. Moreover,
it is difficult to understand why only infrastructural and commercial aspects
of a bid are subject to the scoring system applied by the Bid Evaluation Task
Force. If the main reason for this is the fact that the members of the Bid
Evaluation Task Force lack expertise in the field of human rights, then the
assessment of human rights aspects should perhaps be left to independent
experts only. It would be crucial to give these human rights experts some power
to decide whether or not a bid qualifies for the next stages of the host
selection process. A greater role for independent human rights experts in
evaluating bids to host mega-sporting events could come with the establishment
of an independent Centre for Sport and Human Rights in 2018. However, this will
probably not affect the host selection processes that are currently underway.
rights within the criteria for evaluating bids to host mega-sporting events may
deter many countries, especially those with a negative human rights record,
from launching a bid. However, as Professor John Ruggie makes clear, human
rights requirements in bidding regulations for mega-sporting events are not
aimed at ''peremptorily excluding
countries based on their general human rights context''.
Indeed, a country where human rights abuses occur can nevertheless deliver an
abuse-free event. To do so, it will need to develop an effective strategy and,
if selected, guarantee the implementation of this strategy from day one.