RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — FIFA's secretary general has floated an idea for a possible change to the World Cup bidding process in response to a spate of challenges in organizing next year's tournament in Brazil, which he says has "clearly" proven more difficult than in prior host nations.
Jerome Valcke told reporters at a briefing in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday he would like to see the highest-level political approvals required as part of the bid package for countries hoping to host the World Cup.
"I think it's a good idea because it would make a support that's a national support versus just a bid submitted by a member association with government guarantees," he said, adding such a measure would give the bid more legitimacy in the public eye.
The World Cup came under fire during a wave of mass, nationwide protests that swept Brazil in June during the Confederations Cup warm-up tournament, with many protesters complaining that billions have been invested in state-of-the-art stadiums while basic public services like education and health care languish.
Valcke said that such a measure would guarantee the population is behind the event and cited a recent referendum in Switzerland, which saw the country refrain from bidding to host the 2022 winter Olympics after it was rejected by voters in a single province.
Valcke stressed that it's just his own personal idea at this point and has yet to be brought before FIFA's executive committee, but added he intended to bring it up with the organization's president, Sepp Blatter.
Seeking prior approval from the would-be host countries' highest legislative body could head off problems like those FIFA has face in Brazil, Valcke said. The organization has repeatedly been at loggerheads with Brazilian officials over organizational mishaps, stadium delays and other issues.
The latest complications include recent appeals by the federal public prosecutors' office which, if granted, would see FIFA stripped of certain tax and other benefits accorded to it under the controversial World Cup law, which was approved by the Brazilian congress last year.
Valcke said such last-minute maneuvering is "not the way it works."
"Before Brazil got the organization of the World Cup . in 2007, (it) signed these documents saying they would provide FIFA with the following," he said. "You are asking for something, the person accepts to give it to you in exchange for getting the organization of the World Cup, you negotiate, you are flexible, you accept a number of compromises and then suddenly someone is saying, 'No, no, no, finally even for this it's too much' one year prior to the World Cup."
Valcke also responded to critical comments made by Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes in a recent interview with Brazil's ESPN affiliate, when he said, "the FIFA environment is not the best in the world" and blasted the organization for its single-minded focus on stadium readiness. Paes said the International Olympic Committee, which is helping oversee preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, is much more focused on leaving a lasting legacy from the games.
Valcke shot back that it was normal for FIFA to focus more on the stadiums than on infrastructure or other projects because "without the stadiums there is no World Cup."
"If (Paes) has not yet understood the legacy of the World Cup, I'm speechless," Valcke said. "Maybe he should just look at the Olympic Games and forget about the World Cup."
Asked whether it has proven more difficult to plan the event in Brazil than in other past host nations, Valcke responded "no question, clearly."
Still, he sounded an optimistic note, citing progress in finishing stadiums in the World Cup's 12 host cities on deadline. Valcke said visits this week to stadiums in Sao Paulo, the Amazon city of Manaus, Curitiba in the south reassured him that all three were proceeding on target.
Valcke said FIFA is working closely together with the Russian government to get clarification and more details about the country's anti-gay law, but said FIFA will not "give up on its principles."
"We are intelligent people and there's clearly a discussion between the Russian government and FIFA," Valcke said. "We are waiting again this clarification but we will, for sure, enter into a discussion with them and we will not accept any discrimination when it's about the World Cup."
SNTV producer Filipe de Almeida contributed to this report.