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Home » Sport » Football

Fifa farce

It is difficult not to be critical of Fifa and their antiquated system of World Cup voting without it sounding like sour grapes.

 

In the aftermath of defeat the easiest thing to do is rant and rave against the powers that be - it is a conspiracy, an outrage, the KGB have dug some dirt on Sepp Blatter and are threatening to tell the world that he is, in fact, a second cousin of Bilbo Baggins.

Even Silvio Berlusconi has taken time out of his busy dating schedule to tell the world that he is the one who masterminded the decision to award the 2018 competition to Russia (his exact words were: 'I would like to add that I also played a role and put some effort into it. Our representatives worked to make sure that our voice - our support - was heard.')

If these explanations were true at least we would have some light entertainment to get us through the grim truth that the World Cup will not come to our shores for most likely at least another 20 years.

The reality, in fact, is a lot gloomier and it makes the decision even harder to take. From the moment Blatter, in all his usual pomp and circumstance, pulled Russia's name out of the envelope in Zurich on Thursday afternoon, the majority of football fans up and down the country have been trying to fathom where it all went wrong for England's bid.

Described by the great man as an 'excellent and remarkable' bid, big guns including Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham could only persuade two members of Fifa's executive committee to back our proposal.

That is two people out of 22 - and one of those was Geoff Thompson, senior vice-president of our very own Football Association. So, after £15million spent, months of campaigning at home and abroad, we only managed to persuade one other person that our world-class facilities, passionate fanbase and multi-cultural society were enough to see us bring home the bacon.

It is not the fault of the bid team that England was not awarded the competition in eight years' time - unlike the ill-fated effort of 2006, this time around there was no arrogance that 'football was coming home', and it is clear that technically, their proposal was head and shoulders above the rest.

Agenda

However, what is apparent is that Fifa have an agenda. Blatter's vision to take the World Cup to pastures new means that England is not an attractive option.

His vision is in theory an admirable one. South Africa was an absolute triumph - the standard of football was poor but the tournament united a country so often in turmoil, and brought people together in such a way that only sport can.

Indeed, Russia deserve to have a shot at the World Cup - a nation that has had its fair share of controversy in the past now has a fantastic opportunity to host the crème de la crème of spectacles.

Zinedine Zidane was promoting Qatar's successful bid to host the 2022 competition, and while the matches will be played in sweltering heat and fans will be unable to enjoy the action with a tasty beer beside them, the Middle East for the first time can rejoice and see the biggest stars in the flesh instead of the television. Who is to say they do not deserve it?

I am not disputing the fact that the World Cup is a global event that should not go to the most powerful and affluent footballing states every four years. But what a complete waste of money and effort.

In a time when cut-backs are dominating the headlines, when countries worldwide are struggling to tackle economic problems of epic proportions, is it justifiable to spend millions of pounds on a bid that was probably doomed from the start?

With amateur clubs struggling to pay the bills, the millions of pounds spent could have been invested at grass roots level where the money really matters.

Councils across the country spent a total of £2.1m bidding for matches which will now fade away into dreams of 'if only ...'

And for what? So members of the executive committee can sit in their ivory towers and feel important?

The whole bidding process needs to be reviewed. Andy Anson, the bid's chief executive, is right to say there is no point trying again unless the system changes. "I would say right now, don't bother until you know that the process is going to change to allow bids like ours to win," he remarked.

Seeing bidders from various countries trying to woo members of the executive committee like testosterone-fuelled schoolboys desperately searching for a girlfriend was an absolute embarrassment.

Buying designer handbags for Fifa wives, accusing competitors of corruption, bringing royalty to the party...you name it, it was tried.

But at the end of the day, when the votes are finally made, we do not even know who backed who because of the secret ballot. So all that chasing around, all those frantic attempts, eventually amount to nothing as the executive committee is not even accountable for their actions.

Makes sense does it not?

And who are these people that are so well placed to make these decisions. Surely pillars of the game, great players, fantastic coaches, people who know what it means for the kid on the street when a World Cup comes to their own country.

Out of the 22-strong committee you may have heard of three of them - Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer and Angel Villar Llona, who were all esteemed international players. The others may be renowned for their work in the game, but should they have the power to decide who will host the tournament?

 

Fair

A fairer system must be put in place. There are currently eight vice-presidents in the executive committee and 15 members, who are appointed by confederations and associations.

It seems a remarkable small number of people to make such an important decision. Surely the 208-strong Fifa congress should have their say, with no secret ballot.

This may bring complications of its own, as Europe and Africa have many more votes available than say South America, whose chances would therefore be cut, but there would surely be a way round this.

Or go the opposite way and give every recognised footballing continent one vote each, with a clear path laid out by Fifa about which continent should host the tournament.

And quite why two tournaments are announced at the same time is a question that also needs to be answered.

Allegations of vote-trading (you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours) further brought the whole process into disrepute, and certain countries pulled out of one bid late on only to concentrate on another - yet another example of a needless waste of cash.

The fact that England only received two votes this week is the real indicator that changes need to be made. It was not a narrow defeat.

Anson has been told that Fifa's outrage at the British media reports were huge contributing factors to the epic failure - the executive members rallied around like petty children and gave the bid absolutely no chance once corruption claims were made public, even though they were proved to be true.

The debate on whether Panorama or the Sunday Times should have gone ahead with their respective documentaries and stories at such a sensitive time rages on.

But an examination of Fifa's role should come first.

 

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