The fallout from England’s failure to secure the 2018 World Cup has been widespread, and largely predictable.
The first was disappointment, which inevitably turned to anger when it was disclosed that we only got 2 votes. And then the blame game predictably followed.
Announcing two winners at once was an appalling idea that only led to even greater opportunity for collusion and deceit.
There is a strong argument for Blatter’s policy of giving World Cups to countries that have not hosted it before. Giving the World Cup to Russia is an acceptable decision on the surface. However, the fact that England’s bid was clearly very strong and their D-day presentation excellent shows what an utter waste of time this whole charade has been. The technical side of the bids counted for nothing, the presentations were nothing more than an opportunity to ramp up the tension, and the years of jet-setting by FIFA officials was all pretty pointless when the president is nudging them to vote a certain way. The fact that a man from Qatar has threatened to stand against Blatter in next year’s elections had nothing to do with them getting the 2022 World Cup, no siree. Only a mad man would suggest otherwise [sarcastic cough].
For evidence of just how pointless this whole exercise has been, you have to look no further than England’s friendly in Thailand next summer – clearly designed to win the Thai vote, and clearly failing. But the FA cannot admit the friendly was set up solely for this purpose even though it is blatantly obvious, so we are committed to playing it now.
Panorama’s expose on Monday clearly affected our chances of success – rumours abound that Blatter circulated cuttings of our negative press coverage of FIFA shortly before delegates voted. The BBC clearly timed it deliberately for ratings, but then that is what TV companies do, and they are not answerable to FIFA. Which would you rather have – a free press or the press of Russia and Qatar and a World Cup in a few years?
I don’t think we would have won anyway, and I don’t think the early squabbles and fall outs in our bid team had any influence either – people have short memories, and won’t have voted because a man resigned from a board many months ago. Nor did a few Birmingham thugs running around a pitch cost us 10 votes.
But I still think the decisions stink, because I think the way Russia is run should have prevented it from winning any decision, and because Qatar is clearly not suitable to host anything other than a sun-bathing contest. There is an argument that these sporting occasions give the countries the opportunity to clean up their act, and thus it’s a good thing. They said the same about the Olympics going to China, so tell me just how much China has cleaned up its human rights record as a result? Next week, Liu Xiaobo should be travelling to Oslo to collect his Nobel Peace Prize. He won’t be though, as he is serving 11 years in a Chinese jail.
And here’s the thing. Since 1993, over three hundred journalists have been murdered or disappeared in Russia. Russia is one of the deadliest countries in the world to be a journalist, and has one of the worst clear-up rates. This week’s Wikileaks releases show the country to be awash with corruption and virtually mafia-run. Still, there will be no criticism of Blatter and his cronies coming out of there in the next eight years, so everyone’s a winner. And if anyone thinks that this award will help clean up the huge problem with racism that the country has, they are living in cloud cuckoo land.
The decision to hand the 2022 tournament to Qatar though stinks even more. If FIFA want to leave legacies in hosting countries, then try picking a country with a population bigger than Greater Manchester, a country where it is safe to walk outside in the summer, or a country that will actually use its stadia after the tournament has finished, rather than dismantle them brick by brick and give to other countries. Perhaps hand the tournament to a country that doesn’t consider homosexuality a crime and allows Jews into its country (though it should be pointed out it that two Israeli sporting teams have recently competed in Qatar) – though it’s a sign of how long it is since we hosted the tournament that when we did, homosexuality was illegal here too. The Qatar decision above all though shows how FIFA do not care for the most important people of all in the footballing world – the fans. I think 2022 will be a particularly joyless occasion.
This may well sound like bitterness from me. Inevitably the “little-Englander” attitude has surfaced everywhere since the decision was made. The viewpoint that we have a divine right to host the tournament and poxy countries like Russia and Qatar (not my words) shouldn’t be getting them instead. I would say that I think we do have a strong argument to have the right to host the World Cup, considering five other countries have hosted it twice and we now cannot realistically host it until 2030, when Uruguay will probably get it anyway, as a way of celebrating the Cup’s centenary year. However, it is no surprise that we are disliked by many in the footballing world when we display such arrogance. Maybe that’s the real reason for our repeated failings.
But my previous arguments do not come from bitterness. I do not argue that England should have definitely won – I just argue that the process is transparent, fair, and that the strengths of the bids actually count for something, rather than politics deciding outcomes and one man having an obscene amount of control over this global game that we all love.
The fact that Australia’s stronger bid could only get a solitary vote against Qatar tells you everything you need to know about FIFA and its machinations. I may be disappointed that I won’t get to see a World Cup in my home country, but there remains a certain relief that Blatter and his cronies won’t be infesting our country in eight years’ time, setting up tax havens, altering laws to suit their needs, having our government bend over to their every demand, and have to watch the organisation that pertains to be non-profit sweep up millions more pounds of money to add to the £400m+ that already sits in their bank accounts.
It would reek of bitterness and spite for me to suggest that our media and press now go after FIFA and truly expose them for what they are. Fortunately I am a bitter and spiteful man, so I say go for it. At least our journalists can do their job without fear of serious reprisal – we should at least be thankful for that.
Written By Howard Hockin