What a day yesterday was for anybody connected in football as FIFA selected Russia and Qatar as hosts for the 2018 and 2022 Football World Cups.
Both of those countries deserve all the praise they can get as I thought both of their bids hit home the fact that having the tournament in their country would help not only change their public image but also that now (or eight and 12 years respectively) is the right time for those countries to be given the chance of hosting the tournament.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bit disappointed that England did not win the right to host the 2018 tournament. It would have been fantastic for people in England and in the UK to be honest to have the tournament.
England is probably one of the few places in the world that could stage a World Cup or major sporting event/tournament right from scratch. After all, we have the finances, infrastructure and the stadia in place, don’t we?
Apparently that wasn't good enough for FIFA despite England’s bid scoring the best on FIFA’s technical review and Sepp Blatter’s praise of England’s bid a month or so ago highlighting the passion of English football claiming the country would be a great place to have the World Cup.
Read into it what you will, but the Panorama show on the BBC and the Sunday Times investigation didn't help the bid in the long-run. I can understand why the allegations of corruption in FIFA were brought up as along with similar claims against the IOC, they have been public knowledge almost for years.
There are politics in all sports, from Formula 1 to Cricket, so the findings of Panorama’s investigation only really brought up old evidence or history.
It would probably have been better to reveal the investigation after the voting, however I can understand why those journalists wanted to get their stories out as they may have been worried that England’s bid along with other countries might have been jeopardised at today’s FIFA votes in Zurich.
That being said, I don’t want to focus on the negative stories. In any case it’s hard to say "If this or that" hadn't happened as nobody outside of those 22 FIFA executive members who voted knows the real story.
In any case, let’s praise Russia and Qatar. Very briefly I’ll draw praise on England, whose bid I thought was exceptional and ticked all the FIFA boxes on location, stadia, infrastructure, security and passion.
There’s no doubt that had we won the bid, we would have had any trouble hosting the tournament. It was great to see the famous faces backing the bid and our video presentation was quite exceptional.
Some people in the media claimed that by having the likes of David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham out there that we were being arrogant by drawing on their collective celebrity status. However, all the other bids featured famous faces connected to bids, so that criticism is one that I don't buy into.
Yes, it focused a lot on the Barclays Premiership, which has been branded as the best league in the world because of its stature and money involved in the league. I’d rather label the league as the World’s League as in the league we have a great range of players from all sorts of nationalities and backgrounds and our league is watched worldwide from places like Hong Kong to Nigeria.
There’s no doubt we could have put on a great show, but as good as our presentation was in the fact that we ticked all the boxes, perhaps that was also our one weakness. Strange isn’t it, but because we were the best technical bid and the fact we have the perfect backdrop for football, it also perhaps showed that England as a football country did not need the World Cup as much as the successful Russian bid.
Russia, over the last five or six years, has been slowly growing into a strong football country. It’s not that the country is new to football, but football perhaps from looking into the country may be perceived as new to the former Soviet country. Russian clubs like Zenit, Spartak, CSKA Moscow and Rubin Kazan have all recently done well in European competitions and commercially there is a lot of money over there.
The Russian bidding team spoke about how the world would be seeing a new Russia and that having the world cup would be a big ray of sunshine for generations who have lived a dark and gloomy history, like those who lived in the 20th century did. Commercially, having the World Cup in Russia is a new challenge and it makes sense that FIFA wanted the tournament there.
As for Qatar getting the 2022 competition, it's certainly a risk. From reading about that bid in particular, it was deemed a high risk by FIFA's technical panel and rightly or wrongly that fact should have been something FIFA must have considered against the Qatari bid. That being said, Qatar's size being small could work to its advantage as there is only a small area to stage the tournament in.
Football in the Middle East is something that FIFA should have been looking at anyway, and perhaps they decided to give this tournament to Qatar because in 12 years time they will be ready and that over that time Qatar and the region will come to embrace football due to the momentum the region will get as a result of winning the bid.
Yes, there are concerns over the heat in the area and that players over a long football season might get exhausted, but we had similar fears for Japan and South Korea in 2002 and in South Africa earlier this year. Qatar is supposedly going to host an air-conditioned tournament with the roofs being shut at the stadia during games and various air-cooling gadgets bringing the temperature down inside the stadiums to benefit players and fans.
Whilst I can't say I know too much about that part of the bid, Qatar and the regions in the Middle East have been crying out for a major tournament such as the World Cup. I know from my university studies from last year that the two major sporting cities in the region Doha (Qatar) and Abu Dhabi (UAE) are very interested in bidding for the Olympics and that they see sport as a boundary-breaker for commercial success in the region.
In conclusion I would like to draw back to England. According to the British media sources within FIFA are claiming that the behaviour of the British media was a huge reason why England's bid was not successful and that no matter how good our presentation had been we would not have been in with a realistic shout.
Although I can understand the media's disappointment, for some reason or another England (and the UK for that matter) over the last 10 to 15 years just is not liked in football circles on the continent and at FIFA and UEFA.
Perhaps the scars of the dark days of English football in the 1980s and early 1990s is still too reminiscent for the powers that be and that the country and people high up in the English game just do not have many friends where it matters.
Maybe it's just that football's changing and that FIFA under Blatter's guidance want to take football into pastures new not into places of football's past and present. I do think it would be a crying shame if England does not get to host the tournament again in my lifetime, as the country would offer a huge amount to football and the world.
I don't think our presentation could have been any better but perhaps we need to look at ourselves from an outsider's perspective to see how we can win over people in football.
FIFA though has to change itself and open up the voting process so more members and FIFA delegates can vote on it. An organisation so old with so much power perhaps could do with a slight change here or there so it can become a better fairer organisation in the eyes of the public and not one that in some cases sits back instead of stepping up to issues which needs to be answered.