Out of a grand total of 22 votes that England could have garnered in the World Cup 2018 Host race, they received just two votes.
Don’t be, the decision to hand the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar reeks of retribution and political gamesmanship.
Despite England garnering the titles of ‘lowest risk’, ‘most profitable’ and ‘strongest technically’ by reports released by FIFA, it appears that the governing body of the beautiful game has dealt a tough lesson to the motherland of football.
Rallying the heavy artillery, England 2018 sent David Beckham, Prime Minister David Cameron, HRH Prince William into the snake pit in Zurich to sway the FIFA Executive to vote on the merits of the bidding countries and not punish the Brits for their outspoken media.
Sure, Russia was a heavy favourite leading up to the vote; they were a new frontier to discover, somewhere for the Football world to spread towards and continue to build Sepp Blatter’s legacy of ‘spreading the game’ throughout the corners of the planet.
However, let’s not kid ourselves that in order to ‘spread the game,’ FIFA has awarded the World Cup to a country that did not have the best bid.
Look no further than the results of the 2022 race to see the intent behind FIFA’s two decision; denying an extremely strong USA bid for that of Qatar; the country deemed ‘highest risk’ by FIFA regulators and a country that would see it’s population grow by 25% with the influx of over 400,000 fans during the tournament.
When a country like Qatar has to pay stars and celebrities to endorse their campaign, Zinedine Zidane is being paid $15million for the successful bid, you have to question the reason’s behind the decision. Sending the World Cup to the USA in 2022 would help grow the North American game and would allow more people access to the games.
Meanwhile pundits are already discussing the possibility of the World Cup in Qatar being the least attended in the tournaments illustrious history, but don’t worry, as the government has more than enough Oil money to cover the costs and ensure that FIFA goes home with their pockets lined in fresh bills.
Then there was the buzz word of the two races: Corruption.
British media outlets News of the World and the BBC, each fought the crusade against the corruption that covers the global game; Payoffs, tickets being sold on the black market, voters taking bribes etc.
Not an issue?
Just moments before voting, Sepp Blatter warned those present of the ‘evil of the media’ and ‘recent events in the media.’ While, Cyprus voting member Marois Lefkaritis, said ““If the [England bid team] think they did not [suffer because of the media], then they are stupid and naive.”
Allegations that there was collusion between the 2018 Spain/Portugal bid and the 2022 Qatar bid to garner support for each in the separate votes will not help, with Qatar winning and the Iberian bid being a finalist in the 2018 race.
With so much controversy revolving around the final decisions and such strong bids obviously snubbed, it asks the question: Why are the best candidates being ignored?
And while there are many other questions to ask, some are already taking action.
England 2018 bid Chief Executive Andy Anson has called for reform, asking for more transparency in the decisions, stating that accusations of corruption have tainted the process.
“I would say right now don’t bother (bidding) unless you know the process is going to change,” said Anson.
“When there are only 22 guys that gives them too much influence.”
While England’s Football Association chairman Roger Burden resigned, stating that he could not work with FIFA as long as he did not trust them.
“I recognize that an important part of the role is liaison with Fifa, our global governing body,” he said.
“I am not prepared to deal with people whom I cannot trust and I have withdrawn my candidacy.”
Finally, Arsene Wenger was steadfast in his call for FIFA reform, “The way to decide looked to me, in fairness, a little bit from the Middle Ages. It doesn’t look right in
modern life that people have to go over there and lobby and say, ‘please believe in us’. Frankly, it looks a little bit that you have to flatter them to get the World Cup.
“I don’t think that is right. You would like to have much more technical than human criteria. It is difficult to explain to people that the technical bid of England was perfect but you get only two votes. That is not rational,” finished the Arsenal manager.
While FIFA will want to move forward and past their decision, it appears there will be a definite push for reform and transparency in the future.
Henry Whitfield is an avid Mooseheads fan and you can find his thoughts on sports and more on his blog, or follow him on twitter @HenryWhitfield. You can also listen to him on air as a regular contributor to the Bill McLean Sports show on 88.1 CKDU.