Let the recriminations begin. Yesterday, Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup, with England’s bid being eliminated at the first stage. Vladimir Putin has described the vote and decision as “fair”, and I’m sure it is in his eyes. Just not in the rest of the world’s eyes.
In somewhat similar conditions, the US also lost out for the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. In both situations it seems clear: The best bid did not win. It seems also clear that large quantities of money were involved. Clearly, Qatar could throw a huge amount of money at their bid and did, as could Russia. In both cases, another host would have provided a more lucrative profitable World Cup for FIFA.
As can be inferred thus far from this post, the outcome has left a huge amount of questions unanswered – as Declan Hill is pointing at. How is it that the most profitable, commercially successful bid crashed out at the first stage for 2018? Most of the England entourage have pointed at something: The total lack of integrity of FIFA members voting. They’ll say yes to your face, but when voting it’s a different story. Moreover, it is coincidence that the country from which two exposes of FIFA’s corrupt nature originated got just two votes from 22?
I’m personally not all that disappointed England didn’t get the World Cup. I’m not sure how much I really wanted it. But it’s fair to say it would have been, along with the other European bidders, the World Cup leaving the least White Elephants (Qatar, incredibly enough, plans on exporting its stadia to better uses after the tournament – and air condition when while in the desert – it is nice to see how much FIFA is concerned about the environment), since all stadia would have been the homes of English football clubs. And therein lies a huge issue yet again unanswered for by FIFA’s unaccountable committees. Stadia still lie barely used in Japan and South Korea after 2002, and I wonder what the legacy is for the stadia in South Africa now the world has left. Yet FIFA commits itself to a load more such stadia in Russia, and wherever the Qatari stadia end up.
Then: The positive spin of course is that new places get to see the World Cup. Wasn’t it nice to have it in Africa in the summer? And won’t it be lovely to have it in mafia land in 2018, and in the desert (where alcohol is banned amongst other things natural to the football fan). Sarcasm aside, it is nice to spread the tournament around, but this leaves, along with the legacy issue, another big and frustrating issue. Why didn’t FIFA make this abundantly clear before the bidding began? Why did it let old, established nations (which I think the US has to belong to in football terms these days) waste so much money on bidding if it was all in vain? As this Guardian piece makes clear, David Cameron could have instead been back in the UK making important decisions, and perhaps not closing quite so many school sports programmes as part of the austerity his party is foistering onto the UK.
It’s been mooted for years (as the first page of Declan Hill’s ‘The Fix’ makes clear) that FIFA is unaccountable and corrupt and the biggest upshot of all this has to be that the institution needs reforming. As it stands it continues to drive football fans to despair the world over yet has no incentive to actually take their views into account – instead taking bribes and saying one thing to one person and another to another and making corrupt decisions affecting billions worldwide. How long must we endure this?