World Cup Bid Reaction: Were Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 the Right Choices?
The morning after the afternoon before and the dust has finally settled on Russia and Qatar's respective wins for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals. England's bid team is waking up from the mother of all hangovers wondering what exactly happened yesterday and now the recriminations can begin.
FIFA Russian to Humiliate England
Was England's elimination at the first hurdle a slap-down from FIFA? One would have to suggest that it was.
Voting over the two rounds looked like this.
2018 World Cup Bid
Round 1: Russia 9, Spain/Portugal 7, Netherlands/Belgium 4, England 2. (England eliminated).
Round 2: Russia 13, Spain/Portugal 7, Netherlands/Belgium 2. (Russia wins with majority).
As you can plainly see from the way voting transpired, England was strategically voted out of contention. The Netherlands/Belgium bid garnered four votes in the first phase but that strangely dropped to two votes in the second phase leaving one with the conclusion that voters chose to pick a loser rather than vote for England.
Why vote the Benelux bid through in Round 1 only to remove your vote in Round 2 when the odds of progressing have strengthened?
Spain and Portugal fell victim to the same deceptions that the England bid fell to when they declared that they had eight votes last week. "All the fish are sold" will go down in football folklore as one of the great quotes but Sportugal were really "counting their eggs before they were hatched."
Perhaps their declaration of having eight votes guaranteed was the Iberian bid team's last roll of the dice against a very well run Russian bid. This bluff/statement was designed for one purpose: to make Sportugal look like a better option than Winston Churchill's "riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."
In the end they only took seven votes, which stayed faithful until Round 2 where Russia conceivably took England's two floating votes and two surprising voters that jumped from the Netherlands/Belgium bid.
All of the bidding nations for the 2018 bid had strong cases. Each deserved to host the tournament.
Ironically, the common perception of FIFA is that it is an all encompassing power and money-obsessed machine. If it was all those things then England's bid represented the easy way out. David Cameron, Prince William, David Beckham, David Dein and Andy Anson put forward a very strong bid. It provided the best technical bid and best economic report but still found itself falling at the first hurdle as FIFA chose the riskier gamble, but not by much, of Russia.
Were Russia and Qatar The Right Choice?
The choice of Russia over its three rivals is a huge one. This is chance for a sporting organisation to have a massive influence on one of the most important countries in the world. The World Cup in 2018 will force Vladimir Putin's government to face up to a host of issues ranging from basic stadium infrastructure to racism to security issues to Russia's whole transport system.
If they can meet the promises they have made over the whole process then FIFA will be able to step back on the moral high ground that England's bid team is trying to scramble up at the moment.
Were England hard done by? Yes, but no more than the other losing nations. National pride is a phenomenal tool when tapped into and before this week, England was seen as third favourite of the four bids.
Somehow, between Saturday and Wednesday, England installed themselves as favourites. Perhaps it was down to the fact that David Beckham would be joined by Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron when Vladimir Putin chose to stay away.
England saw Putin staying away as the Russian PM not wanting to associate with a losing bid while Russia saw David Cameron's appearance as nothing more than a last desperate throw of the dice by a bid destined to lose.
Ladbrokes made England favourites, but they were always an outside bet as far as 2018 is concerned; the English bookmakers effectively protected themselves against loss after a rush of national pride-type bets. The 24-hour news coverage by Sky News only served to whet the nation’s appetite.
It was the same during the World Cup markets for South Africa 2010 where national pride pushed England up to 8/1 at one stage when they should have never got beyond 16/1. It's not often that two World Cups eat you up and spit you out in the space of six months.
Whatever you say about Russia deserving to host the tournament, at least they have a footballing pedigree; the same cannot be said about Qatar 2022.
A Qatarostrophe for Football?
The most condescending note about Qatar's win is that they are the smallest nation ever to bid for the World Cup and that more people signed the USA's bid petition than live in the Middle Eastern country.
On paper, Qatar deserves to host the tournament as much as the USA or Australia for that matter. However, the little country that roared has done nothing as far as football is concerned except for contributing Farad Khalfan and the worst miss of all time.
The 2022 voting process was almost designed to see them win through with Japan, Korea and the USA all having hosted the competition recently while Australia wanted to bid for 2018 but were forced by Qatar's FIFA ExCo member to go for 2022 only.
With that in mind Japan, Korea and Australia were all scrambling for the same votes, as they could not count upon one another, while Qatar has lobbied South America and European votes with great effectiveness.
2022 World Cup Bid Process
Round 1: Qatar 11, South Korea 4, US 3, Japan 3, Australia 1. (Australia eliminated).
Round 2: Qatar 10, US 5, South Korea 5, Japan 2. (Japan eliminated).
Round 3: Qatar 11, US 6, South Korea 5. (South Korea eliminated).
Round 4: Qatar 14, US 8. (Qatar wins with majority).
As you can see, the voting was over after just one round with Qatar only needing to gain one more vote to win. Surprisingly that came in Round 4.
The most surprising aspect of the FIFA ExCo choosing to go for Qatar 2022 is that it does not have one stadium of World Cup standard at the moment and that it will either have to renovate or build 11 new stadiums to meet FIFA stadium criteria.
Like the Russian bid, Qatar has promised to improve its public transport system with a promise of some $40 billion being set aside for a rapid rail system to link the entire country and shuttle travelling fans around.
Most likely, Qatar's biggest ace in the hole was how the 2022 World Cup will change the face of how the rest of the world views the Middle East. This was the carrot that FIFA just could not turn down. Just as changing Russia appealed to the ExCo, changing how the world views a subcontinent was too good an opportunity to turn down.
One other major factor is the heat, which can be as high as 55-degrees celsius during June. To combat this, the Qatari bid has been looking into revolutionary air conditioning where a blanket of air sweeps across the top of the stadium to keep hot temperatures out.
As of yet, this process has not been tried on a full-size stadium but the travelling FIFA ExCo were shown a model of how it would work at a five-a-side stadium.
One important aspect to note is that FIFA were not entirely happy with the Netherlands/Belgium bid hosting the tournament from just five centres, but Qatar is even smaller than the Benelux brothers and the competition in 2022 will be the most compact of all time with supporters literally on top of each other.
Qatar is also a country where homosexuality is illegal, where women are regularly oppressed and where people have been flogged for alcohol consumption.
To say that FIFA's choice of Qatar 2022 shocked people is something of an understatement.
However, against its rivals there can be little doubt that, just as each bid for 2018 deserved to host the competition, you could argue that none of the bidders for 2022 deserved to host the competition.
FIFA Voting System
After Germany won the vote to host the World Cup in 2006 FIFA decided that the tournament would rotate around each continent from then on starting with Africa in 2010 and South America in 2014.
For 2018 and onwards, FIFA decided that the rotation system would no longer be used.
The rotation system was seen as Sepp Blatter's way of forcing the tournament towards South Africa (2010) and Brazil (2014).
However, this is actually the fairest system possible for the hosting of the World Cup. Perhaps to make it fairer, Europe could be split between Northern Europe and Southern Europe but the idea should have stayed the way it was.
As it stands, the FIFA ExCo of 24 men who decide is a system that is designed to promote corruption in the sport. These 24 votes are all powerful and deals must be brokered if they are to choose one bid over another.
England's bid team criticised the collusion between certain countries for the 2018 bid but were at the same time trying to collude with certain voters themselves. In short, the system has to change.
Rotation should be recalled for the future with each continent hosting the tournament in turn (i.e. the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia) with a further local rotation being set in motion so that each relevant country has a chance to host the tournament, if able.
The FIFA ExCo should carry out all the technical analysis and only vote if a host cannot be decided upon.
The current voting system has upset a lot of people and, without doubt, it needs improvement for the future.
This article was previously featured on Tiger Beer Football, where Willie Gannon is the featured Blogger. Over 18s only.
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