Tag Archives: FIFA

#oneaday 1: The decline of auotcracy, in the national interest…?

 Given the generally depressed outlook all the way back in dark old days of 2010, I would like to think that 2011 would be a year where things started to get a little bit  better? On a personal front 2010 was as good as any year, but as a West Ham and England supporter it was absolutely dire. Mind you, if you are a Chelsea or a Liverpool supporter, it has also been pretty dire and in Chelsea’s case this is a major change in fortunes twelve months on.  A bright start to the year for the England national team soon faded and hopes of glory ended in a seedy and bloated fashion in South Africa.  Money it seems, can’t buy you love, or indeed sustained success and certainly not the right to host a World Cup.   However, behind the easy headlines though perhaps we are getting a glimpse of a different and possibly a better way of getting collective success. 

2011 saw the slow but significant decline of the’ autocracy’. Gordon Brown, a famed autocrat, led the way in politics by losing an election, all be it narrowly, to a couple of jolly decent chaps who days before were at each other’s throats but seemingly had no choice but to bury their hatchets and work together ‘in the national interest’. We hailed the ‘New Politics’ and even the most cynical of commentators have had to admit that coalition politics is a reality which will be with us for some time, who knows may be for the next 4 1/2 years. We have already seen the compromises and ‘breaking of promises’, but that surely is a sign that change is upon us and one party ideology over another is surely too 20th century. In any case, good or bad it is a change and change can be as a good as a rest.

Moving sideways into sport and specifically football, we have seen the cracks appearing at the top, namely at Liverpool, Chelsea and to some extent at Manchester United. The debacle at Anfield has been a long time coming, but it has torn a once invicible and hugely proud club apart at the seams. A couple of ‘no nothing (about football) ‘ Americans – Gillette and Hicks –  basically borrowed unfeasible amounts of cash to buy a ‘business opportunity’ which they could not resist. The rest is history, except that history is still being written – Americans still own the club, all be it different ones, and Roy Hodgson, the critics’ chocie to replace Capello post South Africa, is on the thinest of thin ice, after only 5 months. The fans are calling for control.

Over at Old Trafford, the fans have been vocal ever since Mr Glazer and his sons and/or brothers took over, again leveraging the cash  debt against the assets of the club. Only Alec Ferguson could steady the ship, bringing an errant Rooney to heel and deliver continued success, seemingly. What will happen when Sir Alex eventually decides to press his stopwatch for the last time?  Again the fans are calling for control, via various business consortia.

However, the biggest  surprise has been in the softie South, in West London, the home of millionaires, billionaires and those who govern us. Chelsea. The absolute reign of Roman Abramovic rolls on,  but the cracks are starting to appear and the water is flooding into the ship. The Mighty Roman is almost like a latter day Captain Smith on the bridge of the Titanic. Chelsea, the unsinkable machine, have hit an iceberg and now need to change course, and make repairs fast. Ray Wilkins was sacked and no one knew why. Ancelotti is living by a thread and their players, used to winning, are getting older and their ambition is blunted. The murmurs from the fans have started and if the bad run continues, those whispers become taunts, which become boos, which become protest and leads to a boycott. The Roman is under pressure and you have to wonder how he will deal with it, given his meteoric rise to fortune and lack of experience in the ‘old’ country. I personally think that he will simply fire and forget, but time will be my judge, and those Chelsea fans may well be demanding control before 2011 is too much older.

So these autocratic club owners may be facing up to the reality of managing people, highly paid ones, who just don’t follow the script. Who knows if there will be more fan democracy at play in 2011, I personally hope so, but what other country allows their prize business assets to be sold to anyone who raises the money? After all, this was the year that Cadbury’s was sold to Kraft and promises made pre-sale, were soon broken once the paperwork had gone through. We operate in a free market, and it allegedly produces the best ‘product’, the dear old Premier League is the best in the world, we are told,  but in the national interest? From the England football team’s perspective, that will never happen.

Meanwhile over in Geneva, one autocratic organisation that is totally self interested and is not showing any signs of changing  soon has announced that they are setting up an anti corruption committee.  FIFA and corruption are words that seem to travel all over the world together on expenses. Let’s see how this one develops in 2011.

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World Cup 2018 – is the grass greener at home?

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.

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