LAUSANNE - FIFA announced on Wednesday it had suspended the bidding process to host the 2026 World Cup amid the furore surrounding corruption probes at the organisation.
"It was decided to place the administrative process on hold for the 2026 FIFA World Cup bidding due to the current situation," a FIFA statement said.
"Further decisions regarding the 2026 FIFA World Cup bidding process will be discussed by the FIFA Executive Committee at a later date." FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke had announced in March that the host country for the 2026 tournament would be decided at a FIFA congress in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in 2017.
But football's world governing body was then plunged into a crisis at the end of last month when 14 current or former FIFA officials and sports marketing executives were arrested in Zurich, Switzerland as part of an investigation into alleged corruption by US authorities.
The fallout led to the resignation last week of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, but his replacement will not be known until December at the earliest, leaving the organisation in limbo in the meantime.
"Due to the situation, I think it's nonsense to start any bidding process for the time being. It will be postponed," Valcke said at a news conference in the Russian 2018 World Cup host city of Samara on Wednesday after meeting local officials for a scheduled check on preparations there.
Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference in Paris exactly a year before the start of Euro 2016, UEFA president Michel Platini admitted the news did not come as a surprise.
"There was due to be a vote in 2017 but there is no leadership at FIFA so it's a good thing," said Platini.
The United States, Canada and Mexico are among the countries to have expressed some interest in hosting the 2026 tournament, while Kazakhstan said in March that they were examining the possibility of bidding.
The decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Qatar and Russia is currently the subject of a probe by Swiss authorities as part of a far-reaching corruption scandal that has also raised questions about the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
But Valcke backed Russia's right to host the 2018 finals, saying the country "has won the right to host the 2018 World Cup honestly and one must be crazy to say that all hosting rights were bought.
"Overall the preparations for the 2017 Confederations Cup and the FIFA World Cup as well as our first major event, the Preliminary Draw, are well underway and on schedule," added Valcke, state news agency TASS reported in English.
"The World Cups need protection. It's the basis of FIFA activity."