It’s Russia And Qatar, And The Scale Of The Defeat Means That There Is Shame In Losing

By on Dec 2, 2010 in International Football, Latest | 18 comments

Perhaps the clue was in the faces of the England bidding team as they sat down to hear the announcement of the vote. David Dein and Prince William sat impassively, both carrying the thousand yard stare of men that already knew their fates. It wasn’t so much the fact that England lost the vote that shocked, but the margin of the defeat. Just two votes in the first round of voting, one from Geoff Thompson and the other reportedly from Issa Hayatou, put them in last place. It was rumoured that, before the vote, Sepp Blatter reminded some executive committee members about “certain media” and “recent media coverage”, and it has also been pointed out in several different places that the two countries from the nine that bidded with the worst records on freedom of press were the two that FIFA chose. If the former is true (and we already know that the latter is), what does this say about FIFA’s priorities?

This may, of course, be a complete coincidence and all manner of wacky conspiracy theories will probably be put forward over the decision to give the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar over the next few days. The two separate votes, however, should be taken in isolation of each other if we are to make much sense of them. For 2018, the Russian bid had a lot to commend of it, not least of which was the fact that one of the biggest countries in the world had never hosted a major tournament. Was Englands vote a punishment for being a country with a press that have the temerity to ask difficult questions? BBC-bashing quarters of the media should probably consider this question before launching into attacks on the corporation, but it seems unlikely that this will happen. Those of the opinion that David Cameron’s Conservative Party is seeking to consolidate the control of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky may also have cause to take a close interest in how the government reacts to the loss of the bid. It seems, however, surely that, from the scale of the English defeat, that the decision to broadcast the Panorama programme in itself was not the deciding factor in the decision to award the 2018 World Cup finals elsewhere.

The other vote, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish. Qatar is a country of 1,700,000 people, of which 1,450,000 live in the two major cities, Doha and Al Rayyan. Around a third of the population is made up of contractors and their families and are not even citizens of Qatar. As such, there is no opportunity to leave a World Cup legacy in Qatar, because there is practically no-one there to leave it for, and this may be part of the reason why the stadia are to be dismantled after the competition and given to other countries in the world. The average temperature there in June and July falls between forty-one and forty-six degrees celsius, but we are told not to worry because the stadia will be air-conditioned. FIFA’s commitment to the environment seems, on the basis of this, to be more or less non-existant. Issues concerning freedom of the press are real, not imagined, and the country’s laws regarding homosexual behaviour are little short of medieval.

The genie of corruption within FIFA, however, is now out of the bottle, and to put this down to sour English grapes would be misleading. England failed almost as dismally to get the 2006 World Cup finals as they did today, yet the talk of FIFA corruption then reached nowhere near the levels that it has over the last few days. An acrid stench hangs heavy over this process, and it is right that this be investigated further. Perhaps we have merely been judging it wrong all along in discussing FIFA as if it is a democracy. It isn’t. FIFA is a fiefdom. It represents 208 nations, but only the 23 members of the Executive Committee got to vote on their most important single decision. There will be no public statement on the reasons why one bid was chosen above the other, only platitudes. We already know this from the words and actions of the likes of Jack Warner, who treat anyone that questions their authority with absolute contempt, safe in the knowledge that they cannot be ejected from their positions.

None of this excuses those that entered into this process on behalf of England and failed so dismally, though. Those concerned knew how grubby the process was when they got involved with it and they got involved with it anyway. The always implied justification for the near-ruinously expensive building of the Wembley Stadium was that it would one day host a World Cup final, while the academy complex at Burton-on-Trent was mothballed and the number of qualified coaches in the country plummeted. That World Cup final seems less likely that ever now, and probably not in our lifetimes. Any hint of criticism of FIFA from those within the England bidding team over the next few days or weeks will be no more than hypocrisy in excelsis. They knew what they were getting involved with when they signed up for it. Hell, one of them is on the Executive Committee itself. Yet, for the money that they spent, they could only persuade one other member of the FIFA Executive Committee to the merits of their case. With one party corrupt and the other incompetent, the irony is that, in some ways, FIFA and the England bidding committee deserve each other.

For the rest of us… well, at least there will be no World Cup football in Milton Keynes.

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    18 Comments

  1. An excellent summary. My major objection was always the involvement of MK Dons: utterly shameful and indefensible.

    Although it will look like sour grapes, it really is now time for the press and television to go after FIFA and to drag them through the international courts. The individuals concerned, venal as they appear to be, are less at fault than the junket like process.

    I am sad for Plymouth though.

    Lanterne Rouge

    December 2, 2010

  2. Rupert Murdoch’s BBC?

    Seriously?

    You need to get the basic facts right

    Martin

    December 2, 2010

  3. Slight correction: it’s Rupert Murdoch’s *Sky*. Though goodness only knows there’s some Tories who would want Rupert Murdoch to run the BBC.

    After this defeat, it is clear that England’s mistake was in bidding at all. As for FIFA, I can’t help but wish this decision can bite them on the backside, and just find it disappointing to know that Sepp Blatter may not live to see Qatar 2022 fail disastrously.

    Seeing as Qatar 2022 is now, scarily, a reality, might we conceive of the practicalities of the heat being mitigated, not by aircon, but by having all of the matches in the late afternoon or evening? The WC needs three matches per day in the first two rounds of group games, probably two-and-a-half hours apart – could they do 5pm, 7:30pm, and 10pm kickoffs local time, reverting to (say) 6pm and 9pm from the final group games onwards? Added bonus of being more, not less, favourable to European television (see also: why the Abu Dhabi GP takes place at sunset).

    Absolutely right on the Wembley rebuilding, by the way. It’s still the third most expensive stadium in the world. It’s the second most expensive stadium in the world without a retractable roof. And now it will never be used for its implicit intended purpose. The right-wing press can attack that spending with barely a hint of hypocrisy…

    David Howell

    December 2, 2010

  4. Thanks, David. Clearly, that was a slip of the fingers brought about in no small part by having written a little over 3,000 words on various subjects.

    admin

    December 2, 2010

  5. In answer to your point about evening matches, evening matches wouldn’t be a problem for European or American (north or south) audiences, but they will be a problem the further east you go – a 5pm kick-off would be 9pm in Bangkok, 10pm in Beijing and 11pm in Tokyo, and that’s the earliest kick-off time that you’ve suggested. I have reservations over whether Europe will still be the most lucrative television market by 2022 and I guess you could argue that the best way to maximise television revenues in the USA would have been by giving them the damn tournament in the first place.

    admin

    December 2, 2010

  6. I’m not really in agreement with your comment about the England World Cup bid being incompetent. Of course, two votes does not look good. But you must remember who the people are who are voting. Where our bid really fell down was by not offering bribes to all 23 of the delegates….

    Richard

    December 3, 2010

  7. As an Aussie i’m equally as gutted about our one vote as with Englands 2 votes. I don’t believe the process is corrupt rather it’s unfair because it’s not a clearly set out or even playing field.

    Take for example that each of Japan, Korea, Qatar, US, Spain, Belgium, England and Russia get a vote while other bids don’t and many of the FIFA Ex Co members have been sitting in those positions for over 20 years. Not to mention that both votes went against their own FIFA reports that suggested Qatar and Russia weren’t the best bids.

    Surely this bidding process could do with a better structure with each confederation having one vote which is decided by a vote of each and every member of that confederation, at least that way it would take away the questions of corruption.

    mintox

    December 3, 2010

  8. Indeed, there is clearly a massive issue over a 23 man executive committee voting. I understand that the Australian bid was not without its difficulties, but it seemed odd that it was out-voted by both Japan and South Korea. If I get the chance, I will try to return to the subject of what sort of reform FIFA could make next week – I have to say, however, that the chances of any reform occurring without outside intervention are slim to zero.

    admin

    December 3, 2010

  9. Hey, if you guys are ready to bolt from FIFA, we Americans are right there with you. Just go browse any of the U.S. blogs and boards today… the Yanks are absolutely livid about this whole thing.

    Thomas

    December 3, 2010

  10. “FIFA’s commitment to the environment seems, on the basis of this, to be more or less non-existant.” Just to point out that Qatar’s stadiums will be solar-powered and carbon neutral, or at least that’s what they’re saying!.

    Chris P

    December 3, 2010

  11. “Issues concerning freedom of the press are real, not imagined, and the country’s laws regarding homosexual behaviour are little short of medieval”.

    The first part is a joke. Qatar has the only free press in the middle east, with Al Jazeera. And the second part, about homosexual is stupid. Football itself is homophobic, look at the recent English players refusal to front a kick racism out of football video.

    Ahmed

    December 3, 2010

  12. It just struck me that Qatar have of course never qualified for the World Cup before. Can we expect a number of “happenstances” which sees them make their World Cup bow in Brazil or Russia so as to avoid a complete shambles?

    I may well dedicate next Friday’s picture to this subject.

    Dotmund

    December 3, 2010

  13. The only future for football is for the people who actually care about it to run it – the fans.

    Supporters Direct League and FA now!

    Martin

    December 3, 2010

  14. I’m more shocked about Qatar! Abismal! They have the MotoGP there and are forced to do it late at night (in Doha) as the searing heat of 46c is too much for the pilots to handle… god knows what WC will be like there! Most of the country is desert!And the laws of no drinking.. that’ll be broken straight away!

    Ricky Duckworth

    December 3, 2010

  15. Ian, you are of course correct in saying the process needs investigating further. But do you think FIFA will do anything other than shrug it off even if the most blatant corruption is exposed? The continued FIFA career of Jack Warner suggests not.

    Steve

    December 3, 2010

  16. Steve, I have absolutely no confidence whatsoever that FIFA will do anything about the recently made claims. After the Sunday Times sting, there were a few crocodile tears but nothing substantial will come of it. This is why the media need to keep pushing and prodding – to fine the figurative “smoking gun”.

    admin

    December 3, 2010

  17. On kickoff times – you are correct that the Asian market will probably have grown a lot by 2022, to the point that earlier kickoffs in Qatar might be optimal. My point was tangential to that, though probably ill-phrased in hindsight; the Qatari heat could be mitigated by later kickoff times (and seemingly this is deemed entirely necessary by others, c.f. Ricky Duckworth’s point on MotoGP), and coincidentally this would mean that as far as TV scheduling is concerned, it’s just like a European tournament. (Compare and contrast with lunchtime kickoffs in Mexico and the US at the behest of television.)

    On the issue of press freedom (notwithstanding how Ahmed is right to point out how Al-Jazeera are based in Qatar): http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2010,1034.html

    Qatar are ranked 121st in the world – even lower than their FIFA world ranking, for those who want to snark about that (and I don’t blame them). The Russians are ranked even worse, 140th.

    The countries spared the FIFA circus:

    2018:
    * England [UK ranked 19th]
    * Netherlands [tied-1st] and Belgium [14th]
    * Spain [39th] and Portugal [40th]

    2022:
    * USA [20th]
    * Australia [18th]
    * South Korea [42nd]
    * Japan [tied-11th]

    Just to recap, that’s seven bids from countries ranked in the top 50 for press freedom that were unsuccessful, and two from countries ranked well outside the top 100 that were successful.

    David Howell

    December 3, 2010

  18. Mintox, you’re right – the process isn’t corrupt. Just the people who administer that process.

    As an Aussie I’m also gutted that we lost out to Qatar, we might not have much WC heritage but we’ve qualified 3 times – they haven’t qualified even once. What they do have is a big pile of cash and it looks like they spent it well.

    The future looks bleak if world football continues to be run by the likes of Blatter and Warner. Probably the only way to fix it is for the UEFA countries to resign from FIFA enmasse, the WC is FIFA’s cash cow and wouldn’t have half the drawing power if there was no team from England, Germany, Italy, France, Spain or the Netherlands competing.

    Micky F

    December 11, 2010

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