Friday, 3 December 2010

The Big Sleaze

And tonight Matthew: Blatter confirms Twitter's Russian prediction

“When you have the best technical bid, fantastic inspection visits, the best economic report, and, from what people told us, the best presentation, it's quite hard to stomach that all that seemed to count for absolutely nothing.” – Andy Anson, chief executive officer of England’s 2018 FIFA World Cup bid.

Unless you’ve been trapped indoors due to the arctic conditions and had the double misfortune of a power cut to boot, it will not have escaped your attention England failed in their bid to host the 2018 World Cup yesterday.

Instead, the honour goes to Russia, a nation as corrupt and as scheming as the bigwigs who sit on FIFA's 22-man Executive Committee.

Far from sounding bitter, the simple truth is England’s bid was the best going. As FIFA President Sepp Blatter has been quoted in saying, England could host it tomorrow.

Every box was ticked as England’s bid resembled near perfection. Led by their Three Lions, PM David Cameron, Prince William and its most-tattooed footballer David Beckham, few could predict the thrashing England would go on to receive.

Even the one area flagged up as England’s Achilles heel, a lasting legacy, was covered by arguably the most impressive speech conducted by an Englishman since Winston Churchill’s WWII rallying cry.

Eddie Afekafe, a social inclusion manager with Manchester City, was the star of the show, explaining how football had given him the opportunity of escaping the clutches of Manchester’s gang culture.

He said: “Mr President, mine is just one story. A World Cup here could change the lives of millions of people like me.”

England were sent crashing out at the first round of voting with only two votes. To add insult to injury, one of them was cast by an Englishman - 2018 bid chairman Geoff Thompson who has a seat on the committee.

Effectively, England's outstanding bid attracted a miserly one vote from 21 going.

The professional manner in which England conducted their campaign and the round-the-clock efforts of bid president, David Dein, meant it deserved more, and casts serious aspersions over how the process is carried out.

Yes the best team does not always win in football. But more often then not, if they dominate a game and play as impressively as England did, they will score more than once.

This is why there is certain to be a thorough investigation in the coming months into how FIFA choses the host nation.

There are two reasons why England were so comprehensively beaten, and thoroughly overlooked by the committee members.

The first is so obvious I shall not delve too deeply into it. But a certain investigative TV programme, screened just three days before the announcement, may have something to do with it.

The BBC cannot be blamed. Can you imagine if they had waited until after the announcement then given the go-ahead?

Cynics and the world’s media will no doubt have pointed to sour grapes.

By the same token, there would have been a public outcry if such damning evidence had been held back.

But enough of that, as England’s bid was defeated by a landslide. It’s not as if it was lost by a small margin, the sort of defeat where you could then look for extenuating circumstances.

No, England’s bid was never going to win for reasons beyond its control, reasons that are so profound and, in truth, damning for the game.

FIFA are a licence to themselves, and are so corrupt they make Oliver Twist's Fagan look like Santa Clause.

They are accountable to no one, and this must change if nations such as England want to succeed in any future bid.

Throughout the process, England were led to believe they had an excellent bid and members promised them their vote.

With these assurances not fulfilled, one has to ask the question: what changed their minds?

Anson has called for extensive changes to the voting system
The bid's chief Andy Anson revealed today how Blatter had spoke of the 'evils of the media' in his final speech to the committee just before their vote.

Asked if he thought England should bid for future tournaments, Anson told a news conference in Zurich: “I would say right now don’t bother until you know that the process is going to change to allow bids like ours (a chance) to win.

On Blatter’s address, Anson added: “I think that was unhelpful - the last thing those guys hear before they go and tick the box is the evil of the media.

“There was a final sum-up before they voted and I think it was at the beginning of that. That's not helpful to our cause.”

FIFA should also be asked to defend why they chose to conduct two bids side by side.

This opens up the possibility of collusion, and Anson added: “Running two bids together was clearly a huge mistake.

“Everyone who had a vote and a bid clearly wanted to trade that vote for something that helped them get over the line in that campaign.

Australia had a very good bid and they got one vote, we had a very good bid and we got two, the USA had an unbelievably strong technical bid and got three.

“Six votes in the first round between those three, there's something not quite right.

“You have to open it up to all member associations and have transparency and open voting so everyone knows who voted for whom.”

Earlier this month, FIFA has been the subject of further corruption charges when the Sunday Times named and shamed six committee members who asked for money in exchange for votes.

Two were banned over these allegations, while the remaining four have been suspended pending investigation.

At the time, Blatter said: “No, I'm not pleased about that because this is not very fair, but now we have a result it gives us an opportunity to clean a little bit whatever has to be cleaned.”

It appears Blatter is waiting until the spring.

Another question mark hovering over FIFA is the Swiss controller's unrelenting crusade of taking football to the nether reaches of this world.

It has led Twitter user DavidBedwell to quip: “After Qatar wins the 2022 bid, 2026 is rumoured to be between Narnia, Mordor and Krypton.”

Indeed, before Russia 2018, the score was Western Europe 10-0 Eastern Europe in the hosting stakes.

So, a result for change, but we should not be too surprised.

This year, the tournament was hosted by South Africa – the first time the World Cup has travelled to the continent.

A change gonna come: Blatter sandwiched between Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad
bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

It was also revealed yesterday that football will cross further frontiers when the World Cup travels to Qatar in 2022.

“Expect Amazing” their bid motto promised, and the World certainly was amazed as Blatter slowly pulled open the envelope.

Qatar will have their work cut out, however, in hosting the World Cup, and serious questions will need to be answered closer to the time.

Cynics may argue such was Blatter’s desire to continue his quest, he conducted a joint bid, thus giving Qatar the longest possible time to prepare.

The Emirate nation is half the size of Wales, and only has two cities.

It will need to build nine new stadiums, while England fans will be pleased to hear it is illegal to consume alcoholic beverages in public places.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block to Qatar 2022 is the searing heat that will meet the teams in June and July.

Playing in temperatures of 50C is not going to be viable, so expect the first World Cup to be held either in the spring or the autumn (either that or those air conditioning machines are going to have to put on one hell of a show).

So, in conclusion: why can’t us Brits be magnanimous in defeat? (‘Congratulations Russia and Qatar, your bids were worthy and we look forward to gracing your countries as and when.’)

The reality is, when you are defeated by a better team, you hold your hands up.

But when you feel you are robbed, just as Germany did in 1966 with Geoff Hurst’s phantom goal, and as Frank Lampard did 44 years later when his effort was half a meter over the line, you feel a sense of injustice.

There is sure to be an inquest into how FIFA select their host nations, and stand by for further programmes in the not too distant future.

I hope the fallout does stimulate enough debate for FIFA to reconsider how they conduct future World Cup bids, rather than fuel the fire of discontent that is apparent between England and football's chief governing body.

My hunch is that it won’t.


NB Spare a thought for the Aussies, their bid to host the 2022 World Cup only received one vote. Will Adelaide bring them any joy in the coming days? Don’t count on it…

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