6 December ~ In Tokyo in 1964 FIFA's president, Englishman Sir Stanley Rous, was busy organising the Olympic football competition. He had other matters on his mind too. FIFA's membership was expanding, and at the FIFA congress of that year 62 national associations cast their votes for a revolutionary plan for allocating and scheduling World Cup finals. By 55 votes to seven the congress authorised that, in future, the executive committee (Exco) rather than the congress would allocate World Cups.

In Rous's view, leaving the decision to congress was putting a "strain on friendships" and basing the choice of the hosts "on not wholly relevant issues". In the cosier climate of world football politics of the time, few saw anything at all odd in the change. Patrician Rous could be trusted and in London's Royal Garden Hotel two years later his committee confirmed that West Germany (1974), Argentina (1978) and Spain (1982) would be future hosts.

Dr João Havelange changed many things when he seized the FIFA presidency from Rous in 1974, committing much to emerging football federations in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean in particular. But the power of the executive committee to award hosting rights remained intact. Rous thought that canvassing for votes would end once the big decision lay in the hands of a few honourable committee members. Havelange, his successor Sepp Blatter and their bloated executive committees have had no such qualms, actually encouraging the likes of the FA to spend lavishly within the bidding process. In 2000, this bought England's bid for 2006 a respectable five votes in the first round, though this dwindled to two in the second-round knockout stage.

A decade later, as the UK's prime minister, heir-to-the-throne-but-one and most glamorous and famous footballer flattered the Exco members at breakfasts and lunches in the swishest hotels in town, they might as well have been blinded by the blizzards blowing outside by the lake. England's first-round elimination with just two votes was a much worse performance than in 2000: with one low-profile English executive committee member (who unlike his successful counterparts from Russia and Qatar took no part in the final presentation) already in the bag, England's ill-advised bid for the 2018 World Cup finals garnered just one vote. A relatively conservative estimate of the cost of that vote is £15 million.

England's presentation pitched royalty, politics and celebrity to FIFA, and during its presentation its chief executive oleaginously congratulated FIFA General Secretary Jérôme Valcke and his colleagues for the "superb way they've managed this complicated bidding process". The England delegation wasn't congratulating FIFAcrats when Russia's name came out of Blatter's envelope. Vladimir Putin was soon en route to Zürich to thank FIFA, and no doubt his faithful mover and shaker Roman Abramovich, who had been with the bid team. When asked which win pleased him most – getting the 2014 Winter Olympics for Sochi or this World Cup – Putin simply smiled and said how much he likes to win. Russia's bid prioritised development and new football markets, in a post-communist climate, in the biggest country in the world. It fitted a mission that was laid out in Havelange's manifesto of 1974. England's bid was patronising in at least two ways: offering national associations help from English clubs during the finals; and proposing a Football Utd scheme to match FIFA monies that have been committed to grass-roots and world football development, in effect an economic partnership with much-maligned FIFA.

The England bid looked even sillier as Exco "promises" were counted. "Given the promises that were made to us," the England bid boss asked, “how could the vote have turned out the way it did?” You couldn't get much more naive than this in the world of FIFA politics; it's not a gentleman's club. executive committee committee members have said to me that you always accept a bit of bad to go with all the good and a top European football executive told me that “FIFA's now so corrupt” that it no longer knows that it's being corrupt. Cameron's charm and courteousness doesn't work in this world.

Prince William was out of his depth in neutral Switzerland and could never match Machiavelli's star pupil Blatter. A "wise prince", recommended Niccolò Machiavelli, makes sure that his citizens "are always and in all circumstances dependent on him and his authority", so that they will "always be faithful to him". Insiders reckon that Blatter has at least 148 faithful dependents among FIFA's 208 national associations and many of these are represented by long-serving Exco men. Russia was always in the driving seat and a Russian victory could keep the rhetoric intact and the accounts books closed. How could a three or four-day England charm offensive have ended any other way than it did on Thursday afternoon? Alan Tomlinson

Comments (13)
Comment by imp 2010-12-06 14:01:57

Good piece. I can also highly recommend Alan's excellent book, co-written with John Sugden, 'Badfellas: FIFA Family At War,' the best book yet about our esteemed friends in Zurich. Though like everyone else I await the sequel: 'The End of FIFA: How Football's Family Collapsed and Ate Itself'.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-12-06 14:36:56


The only people impressed by the fact that David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham were making the pitch for England seem to be the English.

Comment by Coral 2010-12-06 15:30:51

Although it was regarded by all other nations as the best presentation on the day.

Comment by FCKarl 2010-12-06 20:00:46

It was the best presentation of the day. The summer climate in England is more suitable to footballing athleticism than the oppressive heat one most likely finds in Spain/Portugal. One always finds cheery folk in England - well, mostly. "Sorry" and "Please" are the most common words a foreigner hears when going on the streets, using public transport, or waiting in line. It is more mannered (still) than what one finds on the European continent.

And the football fans then get an excuse to come see storied places like Anfield, Highbury, the Stadium of Light, new White Hart Lane?, and now New Wembley.

That is football tradition. And that is what fans around the globe want to see. They want a great excuse to come see the famous stadiums they frequently see when having a chance to view an EPL match.

Can anyone here name three stadiums in all of Russia? Where does Rubin Kasan play? Name one famous match -- truly famous match -- played on Russian soil. (Most are not even sure which stadium was used for Man. United versus FC Chelski in the UEFA Champions League Final. Even if you don't know which stadium in Moscow, you do remember the completely unprofessional state of the pitch and near freezing temperatures for that May-date match.)

Do the Russian stadiums feature club museums anything close to the caliber of what you now routinely find in England and Scotland?

Has Russia produced the football culture hymns that now grace fan chants around the globe? Everyone knows "You'll Never Walk Alone." "Go West" is done everywhere and people love it. Laugh, but the likes of Rod Stewart are known far and wide, and people know him to be a soccer-rocker. Please post here a Russian football chant or melody known outside Vladivostok.

Has Russia even ever produced the kinds of creative and colorful postage stamps that routinely appear at World Cup time?

Yes, people will always come to a World Cup. You don't really have much choice if you hope to attend a few in your lifetime -- they are, after all, always 4 years in the waiting. But one arrives at an England 2018 salivating because you WILL be part of footballing legends.

Around the World, people know of the Busby Babes. People know the Charlton brothers. Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton are names ALL goalkeepers know no matter what age. Bill Shankly stands for a style of managing, but also a style of person. The same for Bill Nicholson. Bobby Moore is a legend. We all wept over Hillsborough and have been soothed over the years as hooliganism and stadium infrastructure has improved.

Fans can easily pluck out names of big stars with their big stories from the 1980's and 1990's out of England's lore: Keegan, Hoddle, Wilkins, Adams, Robson, Lineker, Barnes, Shearer, Platt, even the very, very sad/stupid case Gascoigne.

Outside of Lev Yashin, what football legend has Russia given us? How many can really tell you a story about Oleg Blohkin? Most say, who?

I mean, to really earn his place on the world stage and to experience the football the way a football soul longs for it, Andrey Arshavin HAS TO LEAVE St. Petersburg and come to London, right?

What world-class player has ever gone to play in Russia's top league?

I remember a work colleague silently, discretely weeping when he learned of Sir Alf Ramsey's passing. And he wasn't English.

(Maybe next to no legends from Russia because totalitarian societies just cannot produce them.)

Comment by FCKarl 2010-12-06 20:02:01

Perhaps Britain's best export has been educational standards. Second best: Football. Football bears witness to this all over the globe. Clubs like FC Barcelona and those in Genoa owe their roots to expats abroad. Just journey in South America -- anywhere, particularly the harbor cities -- and you see the huge influence of the British seaman, merchant, captain, and businessman abroad. Invariably, there is an Englishman or Scot or Welshman, or all three tied to the founding years of these futbol clubs from Uruguay to Argentina to Peru and Chile.

Do FIFA Executive Committee members think about these things? No. Un-numbered Swiss bank accounts tend to haze your thinking.

England World Cup 2018 would have been a grand time for the world to again say thank you to the origins of the sport AND the place where such fascinating stuff has occurred.

FIFA missed the opportunity last Thursday. Let's not miss the opportunity to now dump FIFA and create our own "Coalition of the Willing."

Let them do whatever corrupt thing they want to in Russia in 2018 and Qatar 2022, real footballing nations can be enjoying a much more meaningful footy party in a free society that boasts 1) football tradition, 2) excellent organizational skills, 3) tremendous hospitality, 4) safety for all involved, and 5) a climate conducive to athleticism at the highest levels.

England, throw that “Party,” and, yes, they will come.

I'll bet that the Argentinas, Brasils, Uruguays, USAs, Italys, Frances, Netherlands, Japans, and Germanys would be more interested in this. I know that the Aussies would be.

Comment by tratorello 2010-12-07 08:43:52

Why would the FA expect anyone to stick to their word when they, themselves, were well known for being duplicitous? Has everyone forgotten how the FA double-crossed the Germans in bidding for 2006?

I don't think FIFA forgot this and were always going to punish the FA by humiliating them in the biddig for 2018.

Comment by Coral 2010-12-07 09:38:42

The England/Germany agreement was never really proven to have happened. It is a story that no one can find the actual source of, but Germany have repeatedly played it up and who can blame them as we would do the same in their position. Worryingly there was a chance of doing a joint bid with Germany, encouraged by chief Arse Jack Warner, which would have been widely backed. The reason we didn't was because of the field day the red tops would have had.

There is something to be said about freedom of speech and the free press and how Russia and Qatar are lesser countries for not having that. But it comes at a very, very heavy price it would seem. Far too much power for people who should simply report what is happening.

Comment by jimmysunshine 2010-12-07 09:58:59

FCKarl - I think your exemplary demonstration of a pompous colonial attitude - we are the best at everything and we very generously grant you the opportunity to come visit - is one of the things that rankles with people all over the world. To imagine that everyone everywhere would give their right arm to come to a world cup in England, over and above the simple fact of being at the competition, is wholly anglocentric. The global reality is that as the biggest exporter of arms and second only to the Americans in meddling in the affairs of other nations, we are widely despised. Now I know that is politics not football, but then the FIFA bidding process is politics not football also.

I can just imagine David Cameron waxing lyrically over breakfast in just the way you have above, and the poor little ex-colonial fellas thinking "Just who does this guy think he is?"

Now you and I both know how great it would be to watch world cup football done the right way, by gentlemen, in Milton Keynes. But Jack Warner might think you are a patronising fool if you take that tone with him.

Comment by Coral 2010-12-07 13:39:03

" David Cameron waxing lyrically over breakfast in just the way you have above, and the poor little ex-colonial fellas thinking "Just who does this guy think he is?" " Well he is an elected Prime Minister who is accountable to the 60m public and would face explusion if he didn't do things via the propper process. The question is, just who does Sepp Blatter or member of the comittee think they are? A world leader, Prince and best known face in football have to kiss their feet, but for what? Do they have a special skill that aids football?
The question should be what can the FIFA board do for football? The question at the moment though is what can football do for them?

Comment by FCKarl 2010-12-07 14:54:46

JimmySunshine - For the record, I am not English, not born or raised in the UK. I am one of those who admire the Game and have come to admire many of the British approaches to the Game.

Having worked and lived in 7 of the bid countries that were vying for 2018 or 2022 Cups, I can tell you I am indeed biased. I am biased for open, free societies and I am biased toward competence.

I am also biased toward genuine friendliness and true hospitality - these are things one can experience in abundance when coming from abroad to the UK. These should not be taken for granted. There are many societies and cultures around the world that do not do so well with simple courtesies.

Neither Russia nor Qatar posses competence. All that Qatar has it owes to crude oil AND mostly European know-how which has been handsomely rewarded with construction contracts to build where mankind otherwise would not be able to live.

The only thing that has presented the Russian Federation post-USSR from full disintegration to meaninglessness is natural gas and crude oil. And, no, they could not themselves extract it and make it useful; they needed Western oil companies to show them how in the early 1990's.

As an example of how the present-day Evil Empire behaves: Now Russia's leadership annually hold these energy resources as extortion tools against neighboring Eastern European and even Western European nations -- regularly reneging on established contracts in the coldest weeks of the year. Just wait, you'll see this deadly theatre replayed again about the 2d or 3d week of February 2011. (This impacts 100's of millions of Russia's former countrymen in the larger USSR, now Poland, Czech, and Germany, etc.)

A modern-day cradle of worldwide civilization is England's shores. It matters not whether we are talking banking, economics, modern factories, literature, journalism, all the sciences, world exploration, motor sports innovations, medical advances, IT creations, media advancements, or aerospace technologies.

No, it is certainly NOT the only place that has helped advance the human condition worldwide. But it has been a centrepiece of this for the last 200 solid years.

Britain is not perfect. But for its flaws both current and previous, it remains a place people all over the globe flock to (so it is with so many of the nations in the Commonwealth with Britain helped establish) to both live and visit.

Yes, people come oh so gladly to land and visit in Britain. So it would be in England 2018. Contrast what you see at any international arrivals in England with what you see on faces arriving from abroad in Moscow.

Free societies tend to help people and undertakings flourish. This is not the case in Qatar or Russia. I do pity the common man who lives in either place.

(And honoring the fools who lead these countries with winning Cup bids only sends the message that corruption, graft works. We cannot allow it.)

Comment by mmsredarmy 2010-12-07 15:20:31


you need a massive reality check, english or not.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-12-07 15:45:11

A rare thing though from FCKarl, someone praising England. Either we are down on ourselves or the papers are doing it for us. Sometimes we seem to forget to be happy with what we have.

Comment by SolihullSlater 2010-12-08 12:21:13

Does anyone know what celebrities, if any, campaigned for Russia, Qatar, Spain, etc? I know Clinton was with teh US bid.

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