Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Mess at the Top of World Football

Is something really wrong with FIFA, or is it just us English being a little upset that we didn't win the bid?

Far be it from me to lash out in sour grapes, but I think it's clear to many right now that something is very wrong at the heart of FIFA. It's not the fact that we didn't win the World Cup bid that riles me, I could have accepted coming second, but to finish with just one vote other than our own is insulting. And Qatar, rated as 'high risk' by FIFA, winning the 2022 bid shows that something really is wrong with the selection process.

Let's look at the facts from the bidding process (an idea which apparently evaded those 22 men with the votes):

  • England was rated a 'safe' host, with eventual winners Russia rated as 'Medium risk'. 
  • We are widely acknowledged to have the best technical bid of the 2018 candidates, all our infrastructure is already in place.
  • We had the best commercial bid of all, no-one else could have provided FIFA with as much cash that they so desperately crave.
  • Our presentation was amongst the best, with us sending our most senior people, unlike other competitors.

The one thing I could possibly see us being marked down for is the legacy aspect of the bid. We may have included football development in Africa as part of our bid but back in England there is little scope for further football development as we already have it all. That one downside is the reason I could have stomached (begrudgingly perhaps) coming second to Russia, who clearly have a detailed plan for the legacy of the World Cup. 

What I find appalling is that all the other positives, put together in a bid that cost us £15m, could count for absolutely nothing. If the rules of the contest were that actually all the stuff about inspections and economic reports counted for nothing, surely we should have been told?

And now certain members of the executive committee show their true colours, in coming out and blaming our loss on the fact that we as a country have a free and independent media. It is now clear that the reason we lost is that FIFA members are part of a club which is secretive, and hold grudges on all who dare investigate the corruption that sits only very slightly under the surface.

We're not talking about the English media smearing people here, the Sunday Times and Panorama both had hard evidence of corruption. The press didn't say 'England doesn't like FIFA', they showed exactly how bribery played a part in the decisions of some members. If outing the truth about corruption loses you a bid, then I think we can safely say that England has lost, but for all the right reasons.

I'd have loved to see the World Cup in England as much as anyone else, but not if it was at the cost of our integrity and us having to sink to the level of corruption and political positioning that is obviously far more important to FIFA than the actual strength of a bid.

The Sunday Times and Panorama were both absolutely right to release the information they had when they did, its FIFA that has the problem, we shouldn't sink to their level. The IOC had a similar problem not so long ago, and they soon turned it round. Maybe some good can come of this furore and FIFA will soon follow the IOC on the road to transparency and respectability.

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