Homophobia and Taxes Put the 2026 FIFA World Cup in Mexico at Risk

FIFA has under its radar these issues that could leave Mexico without attending Qatar 2022 and without organizing the 2026 Cup.

Gianni Infantino, FIFA President

The homophobic screams of Mexican fans and the recent announcement of the government's refusal to exempt FIFA from taxes have cast doubt on the country as the venue in 2026. Photo: Wikimedia- United Nations Office

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Angel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: La homofobia y los impuestos ponen en riesgo el Mundial 2026 en México

In June 2018, FIFA announced in Moscow that the candidacy of the United States, Canada and Mexico for the 2026 World Cup was the winner . The $ 14 billion offer turned out to be highly attractive. However, problems with the homophobic chants of Mexican fans and the recent announcement of the government's refusal to exempt FIFA from taxes have cast doubt on the country as host in 2026.

Homophobia, the first obstacle

Racism has been an issue that has gained relevance in world soccer in the last decade, gestures of racism by both fans and players have been punished more and more harshly by  authorities. The fight against homophobia has also been included as a priority by FIFA, so any gesture of homophobia is sanctioned in a sport in which openly homosexual players are still few.

The games of the Mexican team have been put in the sights of FIFA by homophobic shouts towards the goalkeepers of the opposing teams. This gesture is common in the fans of Liga MX, without the Mexican Football Federation having taken further action on the matter . Even among fans there are arguments that the scream is not homophobic, but refers to another sense or meaning of the same word. However, for the current FIFA regulations this is unacceptable, which is why it has gone from calling attention to Femexfut to take action to real threats of exemplary sanctions if this behavior does not end.

In the recent Concacaf pre-Olympic, FIFA recorded this behavior in two matches of the Mexican team against the Dominican Republic and the United States, the result was a fine of just over $ 60,000 dollars and two closed-door games for El Tri as a sanction . In addition, if the fans continue with the same attitude, Mexico would be disqualified from the Concacaf qualifying tournament for Qatar 2022 and, in an extreme case, the venue for the 2026 World Cup.

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Taxes, the second obstacle

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has declared that the government he represents will not allow FIFA tax exemption as "traditionally" has been done in other events . In 2017, when the venue had not yet been decided, media such as the Reuters agency echoed FIFA's request to be guaranteed tax exemption by the organizers of the 2026 World Cup. However, this has clashed with the policy of the Mexican president to end tax evasion in his country (during the election of the FIFA WC host the president was Enrique Peña Nieto). Unofficially, it is mentioned that Femexfut has been pressured so that the Mexican government accepts at least a reduction in the payment of taxes , if an agreement is not reached and added to the sanctions for the homophobic chants, the use of Mexico in the next tournament would be in danger.

In addition to complying to the letter with the demanding requirements of FIFA on infrastructure, communications, telecommunications, services, stadiums, hotels, security and explicit government support (among other things), the governing body of soccer also requests reduction or even tax exemption. Considering in particular that FIFA is registered as a "non-profit organization" in Switzerland , being an institution "that develops soccer".

This request for tax exemption is extended to FIFA subsidiary bodies, members of the local organizing committee, FIFA confederations, associate members, service providers, etc. In Germany 2006 it obtained preferential rates, in South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014, Russia 2018 and, according to information from the consulting firm PwC, also in Qatar 2022, they obtained tax exemption thanks to agreements with governments.

The debacle for Mexico in numbers

In 1990 Mexico did not classify to Italy 90 due to a sanction. However, since 1994 it has been present uninterruptedly in the World Cup, which has meant a round business for Femexfut, the powerful sponsors and the television stations that benefit from the event, as well as the large number of fans in the country and in the United States that follow the national team. Therefore, that Mexico does not attend Qatar 2022 and that it loses the 2026 venue could be an economic debacle for Mexican soccer .

As a reference, in 2014 Mexico was about to be eliminated heading to the World Cup in Brazil after a performance, according to the daily Récord, if they had been eliminated, the losses would have amounted to $ 1.4 billion in sponsorships, broadcasting rights, merchandising, the clothing brand that dresses the team, lost opportunities for players and income for local businesses that benefit from the event such as bars and restaurants, among others.