FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, is putting 2026 World Cup preparations on hold as it works through a massive corruption scandal that’s seen the arrest of over a dozen officials and the resignation of its longtime president, Sepp Blatter.
FIFA had planned to notify its 209 member federations this week to clarify the bidding timetable and rules for what will certainly be a highly scrutinized process for the 2026 games, but now says it will hold off.
The host country is expected to be chosen at a meeting in Malaysia in 2017. The United States, Mexico, Canada and several European countries are in the running.
Speaking at a press conference with Russian organizers of the upcoming 2018 World Cup, FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said it would be “nonsense” to start the process under the circumstances, according to press reports.
However, he also defended his role in an alleged $10 million bribe paid by South Africa during the 2014 World Cup bidding, a major focus of the inquiry into FIFA’s conduct.
“It was not FIFA’s money… it was a request from official South African authorities and SAFA,” Valcke said. “As long as it is in line with rules we do it. I don’t understand what’s the problem and why I am such a target in this question.”