Football

Four co-hosts for 2026 World Cup?

The 2026 World Cup could be split among up to four countries, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said yesterday, announcing the organisation would encourage applications to co-host the tournament.

"We will encourage co-hosting for the World Cup because we need Fifa to show we are reasonable and we have to think about sustainability long-term," Infantino told a small group of reporters on the sidelines of a meeting in Doha.

"(We could)... maybe bring together two, three, four countries who can jointly present a project with three, four, five stadiums each.

"We will certainly encourage it. Ideally, the countries will be close to each other."

His remarks could open the way to a joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico, which have already said they intend to hold discussions over the possibility.

At the end of last year, Victor Montagliani, president of the Concacaf federation that the three countries belong to, said he expected formal discussions to start once "all the rules and regulations" related to the bid were announced.

Concern has been raised about the financial burden placed on a single tournament host, and the bad publicity generated by stadiums built and then abandoned after use.

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The only time Fifa has previously sanctioned co-hosting was in 2002, when Japan and South Korea staged a tournament that was widely heralded as a success.

The idea has taken off at the European Championship, with Belgium and Holland co-hosting in 2000, Austria and Switzerland in 2008 and Poland and Ukraine in 2012.

It’s a good idea, and Europe has of course previously worked in this way on the European Championship. Swedish FA chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson expressing support for a multi-host World Cup

The next tournament in 2020 has been designated as Pan-European and is due to be staged in 13 cities in 13 countries.

Swedish FA chairman Karl-Erik Nilsson quickly backed co-hosting for the World Cup.

"It's a good idea, and Europe has of course previously worked in this way on the European Championship," he said.

"We are used to it and it works well, it makes it possible for more countries to arrange (tournaments), and in that way it is positive."

But there is likely to be opposition from fans' groups, given the higher costs involved in following a team through different countries.

Infantino also revealed that many domestic leagues are happy with the idea of a 48-team World Cup, with a few against the proposal.

Among other issues the Fifa boss discussed were sin bins and additional substitutions, although he said they are "far away" from being concrete proposals.

Infantino also played down concerns about possible violence at next year's World Cup in Russia despite several flashpoints involving their supporters at last year's European Championship in France.

"I'm not concerned about trouble and violence in 2018," he said. "I have full confidence in Russian authorities, they are taking this matter very, very seriously." - REUTERS

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