THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

8 December ~ Reaction to last Thursday's World Cup hosting decisions has ranged from the sulky (our bid's chief Andy Anson says we won't be bidding again until FIFA changes its ways) to the enraged. Even Barack Obama was less than gracious when he complained that choosing Qatar was "the wrong decision". According to the Mirror, FIFA's decisions to give World Cups to Russia and Qatar are "inexplicable on any rationale grounds... impossible to understand to all those who love football". Well, I love football, and not only do I understand the decisions but I'm really happy about them.

I didn't pay much attention to the bidding process. Gambling £15 million on selling "football in England" seemed sick while so many jobs are being lost. Not one of the FIFA executive committee would have learnt anything from our promotional materials (which apparently many of them didn't bother to look at) or our lobbying (though I'm sure they were happy to have their photo taken with Prince William and David Beckham). English football is shown on TVs all over the world, and everyone at FIFA already knew everything they needed to know about our capabilities as potential hosts. Either they were going to vote for us or they weren't. Our bid ought to have consisted solely of us saying we'd be willing to do it, if anyone wanted us to.

England being among the bidders reminded me a lot of Oxford's attempt to become Europe's Capital of Culture in 2008. We gave the process credibility but surely few outside the country could have wanted us or seriously expected us to win. FIFA's recent decisions on World Cup hosts have been heavily influenced by an attempt to expand their football brand (Japan, South Korea) and a little romanticism (Africa's first World Cup, the first in a reunited Germany). We couldn't seriously offer either of those things – we may be "football's birthplace" but FIFA have already decided to return the next World Cup to "its spiritual home", Brazil.

If we ever had a chance of winning the vote, surely Beckham's constant chorus of "We have the best fans in the world", Prince William thinking the world cares about his wedding and David Cameron's belief that "safeness" was our selling point would have turned off anyone who had considered voting for us. Graham Taylor, while joining the call for FIFA reform, surely won't be the last to acknowledge that we are globally perceived as incredibly arrogant.

Before saying why I'm happy the World Cups will be in Russia and Qatar, I should say I don't think either country "deserves" to host the competition. I'm not sure what criteria could determine whether a country deserves to hold a World Cup, but in the case of Qatar, I would say that a FIFA ranking of 113, a population around the same size as Birmingham, and having not ever qualified for one, almost certainly mean that you don't. But 99.9 per cent of any World Cup's audience will always being watching on TV anyway. For me, as one of those TV viewers, pre-match and half-time clips of Doha and Moscow streets will be far more entertaining than anything from Madrid, New York, or Sydney – cities I've seen plenty of through other sporting events. Both Qatar and Russia clearly have the financial clout to build the beautiful stadiums required for a great televisual spectacle and I'm sure they'll also prove very interesting destinations for anyone lucky enough to be able to afford to follow England if we qualify for either competition. 

Many of our newspapers, who during last summer's World Cup happily ran constant ads for FIFA-approved companies and products, have only just noticed noticed that "money talks" to a worrying extent with international football's governing body. But, at the same time, they are commenting that our "unjustly overlooked" bid made the most financial sense and that financial forecasts predict that Russia may only be able to meet 86 per cent of FIFA's financial target for 2018.

I couldn't care less about FIFA's financial targets. All those at the top of the game obviously earn far too much money (maybe both legitimately and illegitimately) and if the 2018 and 2022 World Cups didn't make a penny, I'm sure they could all retire all too comfortably anyway. The things I care about when it comes to World Cups are: 1) kick-off times; 2) pre-tournament drama and 3) people who know nothing about football and only care "because it's England" being quiet around me while I watch the matches.

Thankfully both Moscow and Doha are only three hours ahead of GMT, so it'll be pretty easy to watch most matches. The various dramas involved with getting South Africa ready on time made great reading and similar stories about Russia and Qatar will be far more interesting, and certainly far less embarrassing, than build-up to a tournament in England could have been. Hopefully, the cultural remoteness of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts might discourage our national team's louder and less-knowledgeable fans from paying too much attention to either tournament. (Or at least discourage them from coming to the pubs where I'll be watching.) And, finally, despite all the speculation about bungs and bribes, I also think there is something romantic about having a World Cup in two parts of the world that haven't experienced one before. Simon Cotterill

Comments (29)
Comment by SolihullSlater 2010-12-08 12:18:51

The think the comparison with Oxford's City of Culture bid is very apt.

Of course we'd all would have loved the World Cup here. But I'm sure the world thinks we are spoilt enough with the Premier League.

Presenting Beckham, Cameron and William would only have built up this spoilt image too.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-12-08 13:04:14

Prince William is getting married?

Comment by donedmundo 2010-12-08 13:13:25

I couldn't care less about England getting to host the World Cup(TM). It would have been nice if Spain/Portugal had won as then I could have gone to see it and had a decent holiday as well. How will I manage in Russia? Will I get a Visa? Can I drive my car wherever I want? Could my wife wander around safely on her own? Can I get a drink at a reasonable cost? The same question could be asked about Qatar, particularly the one about drink. Will my factor 100 withstand the Qatar heat? Of course the fans who actually go are irrelevant. Television is king. Sad.

Comment by imp 2010-12-08 13:48:45

Indeed the World Cup being awarded to these countries is great news. Russia, for example, is great news if you're a fan of state suppression of the media. Argentina 78 nostalgists will be able to enjoy the complete absence (or 'disappearing', or even murder) of journalists asking awkward questions. While Qatar, for example, is great news for homophobes. Finally, a World Cup in a country where homosexuality is illegal - it will be reassuring watching games knowing that gays are securely behind lock and key. Keep politics out of football, I say, because democracy, equality and free speech are unnecessary and inconvenient values with no place in the modern game. They just scare off corporate investment and taint the noble slogan that the World Cup is all about bringing the whole world together. Well, as long as you're not a hack asking a difficult question, or your sexuality suits state-sanctioned bigotry.

Comment by spotkick 2010-12-08 13:54:02

I agree that spreading the world cup to new places is good,but you shouldn't just do it for the skae of it!!

A World Cup in the middle east is a good idea for example. It's a football made region after all. But that shouldn't be the main reason to hand it to Qatar, a tiny country with no stadiums and no footballing pedigree!!

I agree some of the media reaction smacks of sour grapes but there does need to be questions raised about the bidding process where morals and money were put first.

Comment by Coral 2010-12-08 14:37:51

IMP covers most of the points I would make but to add to Spotkick, I am fed up of all reaction being passed off as sour grapes. There are serious issues with FIFA that have needed looking at for a long time and the latest bidding fiasco has only highlighted that. To say that bungs, bids and bribes is all fine and it's all sour grapes to say it is wrong

Comment by robw 2010-12-08 15:08:16

I agree with Imp's comment. Absolutely no problem whatsoever with Russia being awarded the WC. They have a football tradition and have not held it before, etc. However, Qatar being awarded 2022 is an absolute joke.

Comment by jimmysunshine 2010-12-08 15:28:25

Well I think this article is one that finally gets some perspective.

And sorry, but the moaning is sour grapes. Yes FIFA is corrupt and so was the bid. Are we clean? The FA is just as corrupt, the PL even more so. Money talks? It's not like we didn't invent the bung, as well as the game.

Russia and Qatar are dodgy states, it's true. So is GB. Whichever nation hasn't been economically raped by us or bombed by us or destabilised by us has had that done to them by our bastard child/big brother, the US. Get real. The world cup would have to be in New Zealand every time if we were looking for a straight-dealing state. Oh wait, the Maori nation...

Wales then!

Comment by Coral 2010-12-08 16:00:29

"the moaning is sour grapes. Yes FIFA is corrupt", so how does that work? The media are saying we didn't get it because they are corrupt, they are by your admission corrupt. Other things may well be corrupt but show me someone who doesn't moan about the premiership and I will show someone who doesn't like football. The kick off point for the real gripes for that was game 39. The kick off factor for all of this is the World Cup. Not sour grapes, just brought into focus.

Comment by Coral 2010-12-08 16:02:08

By the way, if we are so very bad as a nation Jimmysunshine, why are we having the Olympics, Rugby League/Union World cup, Cricket World Cup and the Tennis world finals held here? Oh you were writing hyperbole guff.

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2010-12-08 17:13:52

"For me, as one of those TV viewers, pre-match and half-time clips of Doha and Moscow streets will be far more entertaining than anything from Madrid, New York, or Sydney"

Who cares about human rights abuses, the banning of homosexuality, and the denial of rights to women and migrant workers, eh? As long as you've got pretty landscapes to look at, that's all that matters.

Comment by Adam Wilson 2010-12-08 17:25:41

Have I got something wrong but I am surprised not to read about how Qatar will manage if the Israeli's qualify (or fans want to actually watch some matches)? Are Jews / Israeli's allowed in the country?

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2010-12-08 17:30:31

Adam Wilson,

Apparently, the Government has offered to suspend their state-sponsored aggressive anti-Semitism for a few weeks. How generous of them.

Comment by PRB 2010-12-08 18:02:40

It should come as no shock that Fifa want to put the tournament in nations that will keep the local press from asking to many hard hitting questions. Makes sense to them unfortunately.

@jimmysunshine - to be fair while GB might have it's problems it is not on the same level of 'dodgy' as Russia and Qatar. That you can live in GB and call it dodgy and get away with it, says as much.

Aside from all the human rights stuff, I don't think the World Cup should ever be going somewhere that has to build stadiums from scratch that will be of no use following the competition. Why not spend all those millions giving the poor people in these nations a good television to watch the World Cup on because they sure as hell won't get any benefit out of the big stadium that suddenly springs up next to their homes.

I don't think the World Cup should be restricted to one or two countries but it doesn't need to be going to somewhere new just for the sake of it either.

Comment by prostak 2010-12-09 04:49:21

Quick quiz - when was the last time the World Cup was held in a country that had laws against gay sex? Which vile, oppressive state do you think that was?

Comment by G.Man 2010-12-09 05:52:30

"The various dramas involved with getting South Africa ready on time made great reading"

South Africa always was getting ready in time; there were no legitimate concerns about that. The reports that made such "great reading" were racist mischief-making and anti-African propaganda. I fail to see the entertainment value in that.

Comment by jameswba 2010-12-09 06:54:39

After the trouble at the Blues-Villa cup-tie last week, there was speculation in the English media that the incidents might somehow have a late, negative effect on England's World Cup bid. Such speculation seemed fairly pointless and was no doubt motivated in part by self-interest but there was at least an attempt to understand what England's football culture might look like to outsiders.

I wonder now what the Russian media will be making of the trouble at last night's Zilina-Spartak Moscow CL game. Will they even acknowledge it? Will there be a sense of relief that FIFA's decision was made a week beforehand?

I was at the game and what went on was certainly unpleasant. The referee took the players off the pitch because flares were being thrown from the away sections onto the pitch but Moscow fans were also involved in attacks on stewards and even intimidated the local ball-boys. There were a number of violent incidents before the game too (I don't know what, if anything, went on afterwards but suspect the local police were kept busy).

If that's the kind of behaviour a section of Russian fans consider appropriate for a meaningless CL fixture, I'll be counting myself out of a trip to sample the 'delights' of the country for the duration of a full World Cup. Meanwhile, it would be good to think the Russian authorities and media won't be trying to sweep such violence under the carpet.

Comment by mmsredarmy 2010-12-09 09:44:03

prb - i would suggest reading what Qatar are actually doing surrounding the work on the stadiums before making crass generalisations about what is going on. It may change your view on things a bit.



Comment by ad hoc 2010-12-09 10:03:11

"Apparently, the Government has offered to suspend their state-sponsored aggressive anti-Semitism for a few weeks."

There are enough legitimate reasons to criticise Qatar's political system without making spurious allegations of anti-semitism. Qatar (like all Arab countries) is anti-Israel and imposes sanctions on Israel. (In my opinion quite rightly, and I wish my own country would impose similar sanctions). But opposing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is not anti-semitic, and to suggest that it is, puts you alongside some really dodgy people.

Comment by dryroasted 2010-12-09 10:16:02

Did England deserve to win? No. Is it sour grapes that we're moaning about the loss? No.

It was pretty clear that the motive was to move the World Cup to new countries. There's nothing wrong with that and England (or pretty much any other bidder apart from the victors) would stood to have done very little for the growth of football worldwide by staging it.

This process involves FIFA voters being pandered to by bid officials, flying first class, staying in nice hotels, and all in all having their egos given an almighty massage.

If it was the case of it being "somebody elses turn" then the whole competition was overblown, pointless and an expensive waste of time for the nations with technically superior bids who, as it turned out, had no chance of winning.

No sour grapes, a valid point if you ask me.

Comment by sbloxham 2010-12-09 10:20:08

We're constantly reminded that football is a business with global brands. So why didn't the FA do at deal with, say a commercial TV company, saying that they would support the commercial TV company's exclusive rights to show World Cup (TM) matches IF thw world cup was brought to England.

The onus would then be on the commercial TV company to get the bid.

If this was the case do you think:

1) We would get it?
2) The actions of a commercial TV company would be any different from a state-led bid?
3)The commercial TV company would want it - would they get their money back?

Comment by Sash08 2010-12-09 11:43:07

jameswba,
There were advance warnings of the trouble last night. Nominally, it was to attract attention to the murder of a Spartak fan in Moscow shortly before the game but, really, what were they hoping to achieve? And what do they think they achieved? Will find out over the next few days and will see what those who went and took part have to say for themselves. Something tells me that with the WC in the bag and an... errrrm... image to project, the authorities might now be coming down like a ton of brickes on the fans taking part in these "actions".

Comment by Why on Earth... 2010-12-09 12:25:10

I'm not sure about what you say, ad hoc. I think the Qatar government's statements have mostly hewn pretty strictly to a purely anti-Zionist line, but the press, which is (shall we say) closely linked with the government, does, for example, print cartoons like this:

[img]http://www.adl.org/Anti_semitism/arab/cartoons/qatar_report3.gif[/img]

Comment by jameswba 2010-12-09 12:46:43

Sasho8,

'There were advance warnings of the trouble last night. Nominally, it was to attract attention to the murder of a Spartak fan in Moscow shortly before the game...'

I wasn't aware of that, so thanks. You may well be right that the authorities will come down like a ton of bricks. Having been there last night, I say that would be appropriate (within reason of course). And forgive the cynicism but I do feel (as it seems you do) that any punishments will be more because the incidents have already been publicised and given a certain image of Russian fans than simply because they were criminal acts.

Comment by ad hoc 2010-12-09 18:17:39

WoE: I think the Qatari press (as far as I know) is censored by the govt rather than a mouthpiece of the same. And I'm quite sure that there are a lot of anti-semitic people in Qatar (well anti-Jewish would be a better word for that form of racism, given that Arabs are semitic too), and that the govt does very little to counter anti-semitism. I mean obviously this is not a good situation, but to refer to the government's "aggressive anti semitism" is just false.

I think to be honest there is just as much overt racism that comes out of Israel and its government (and in fact more in a sense because there are active racist acts happening every day in support of a highly racist occupation). And you get a lot of anti-Arab racism in certain sections of the Israeli press

Comment by Lincoln 2010-12-10 08:30:17

South Africa is know for being a tad racist, yet the world cup went off there okay, and in some small way helped unite a country. Certainly Ghana's success had Saffas cheering on their fellow Africans. There are many reasons Qatar should not have the world cup, same with Russia, but the whole racist thing is not one of them. If anything it will make them confront the issues and that can only be a good thing.

Comment by Matei 2010-12-10 09:01:21

Scanning the comments here, one really has to give it to Western liberalism: it's ALWAYS formally correct. It's NEVER prejudice or dislike for this or that country or culture, but only the concern about minority rights and freedom of the press (08-12-2010 13:48), anti-semitism (08-12-2010 17:30) and, of course, the always handy 'corruption' (08-12-2010 16:00).

If you point out that states like the UK and the US are (recent) large-scale purveyors of inter-state violence and in constant breach of international law, you're essentially told 'love it or leave it' or 'you can still criticize it, so shut up'(08-12-2010 18:02).

If you point out that 'government control' of the press is matched, in liberal democracies, by the far more effective (government/)corporate control, you're told that, for some reason, pure 'government control' is much worse.

I much prefer the unadulterated bigotry on mainstream Anglo-centric football forums, such as ESPN's Soccernet. Much of the pretense exhibited here is absent. Referring to Russia, Donedmundo puts it best: "Can I drive my car wherever I want? Could my wife wander around safely on her own? Can I get a drink at a reasonable cost?" Mostly, I'm not sure either, but your last question I can answer with a resounding 'Yes!'

Comment by Dalef65 2010-12-10 17:13:19

sbloxham;
I think that would be against the terms of the sports and broadcasting act as it stands at the moment...

Comment by madmickyf 2010-12-12 07:30:10

"FIFA's recent decisions on World Cup hosts have been heavily influenced by an attempt to expand their football brand (Japan, South Korea) and a little romanticism (Africa's first World Cup, the first in a reunited Germany)".

If you honestly believe those are the true reasons why those countries hosted the World Cup then you're even more gullible than you sound. FIFA never does anything that isn't with the intention of lining Messrs Blatter & Warner's pockets.

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