As we await the results of England’s bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup this Thursday (2nd December), much has been said and written about our chances by our media. Seemingly the joint bid of Spain (had the World Cup in 1982) and Portugal (never hosted a World Cup) are front runners, with England and Russia (never hosted a World Cup) neck and neck in 2nd place. Joint bidders Holland and Belgium, neither of who have staged a World Cup either, trail in 4th place.
The hands of FIFA, Sepp Blatter and Jack Warner are all weaving their intrigue in those shadowy places none of us know about. Twenty two people will vote and twenty two people will ultimately decide the location for the next 2 World Cups this week. The aforementioned Jack Warner has blamed the ‘British media’ for scotching our bid. He refers of course to The Sunday Times who have exposed 2 FIFA delegates of corruption, both of which have now been stood down, and the yet to be seen BBC Panorama programme that runs tonight. Instead of FIFA thanking The Sunday Times for exposing these two corrupt clowns, FIFA and Warner specifically criticise our media. The question has been asked as to why Panorama does not wait until the vote and air their documentary next Monday. Surely, the question is should it make any difference? If FIFA, Warner and Blatter want to punish England for the British media questioning their ethics (note FIFA have their own ‘Ethics Committee’, which is sort of ironic really), then that is down to FIFA. When the Panorama expose is run is immaterial. Surely it is better for England and ultimately FIFA if the decision is made with all the facts on the table? Should we really blame the BBC and Sunday Times for being unpatriotic? Is it unpatriotic to tell the truth?
FIFA have often spoken about their legacies and what they do for the world game. Indeed, much was made of the investment made by South Africa running up to this summer’s World Cup and the relationship of that investment versus the profit FIFA made. The stories of small traders and hoteliers losing out to the FIFA regulations and business models are legendary, and the issues surrounding potentially empty and unused stadia in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town are also there for everyone to see. FIFA has no ultimate governing body, namely to be very clear it answers to no one but itself. Autocracy is never a great thing and that is precisely what FIFA is.
If England miss out, which looks to be likely, then it will be 2026 before we can be in the frame again. If it is meant to be, it will be. At the end of the day, the rest of the world, both fans and supporters would like to come to England and our own people would embrace the whole thing like few others can. Football is our national sporting obsession. Spain and Portugal would be worthy hosts, as would Belgium and Holland. Even good old Russia would probably do a decent job, although security issues may be a concern, but having overcome real fears for fan safety in South Africa, anything is possible. Personally I really don’t care either way. If FIFA can’t face the truth and their 22 delegates feel Britain (sic) is against them, well that is their right. But please let’s not blame the media this time around, for once they have behaved ethically responsibly.
Outside of a guaranteed place at the 2018 World Cup and possible home advantage, I would not be too fussed if we had to face another away trip to deal with. Euro 96 was great, but never the same at home as it is away, regardless of results.