THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

18 May ~ Most of us have enjoyed that moment of excitement when we decide that it would be a great idea to have a party. In the first full flush of eager generosity, we invite everyone we know. It's going to be such fun! That's pretty much the best part over for the host. Then you have to cope with the expense, the preparation and the worries about who's going to turn up. During the party, you fret about whether or not everyone's having a good time. Then when they've all gone home, you have to clear up the depressing mess, wash the stains out of the carpet and pay for all the damage. But if you think that's bad, imagine hosting a World Cup.

Hosting the World Cup is a much worse scenario. FIFA is not only your outside caterer, it also becomes the self-invited control freak that tells you exactly how to run your own party. At huge expense, it bullies you into remodelling and renaming all your rooms ("This bog is now the Coca Cola Personal Hygiene Facility"). It moodily threatens to move the party somewhere else if you don't get your act together and finish the preparations on time. It dictates which beer and food to serve. It makes sure that it will be the guest of honour, quaffing vintage champagne in an exclusive VIP room with its best corporate friends, and you'll only be allowed in wearing a butler's uniform. And then when it's all over, it packs up and leaves you feeling used and empty – like those huge, all-seater stadiums it insisted that you needed so that Chile could play Honduras.

The bidding process for the Olympics and the World Cup has always been an unsightly and undignified process, as committees full of toadying functionaries jostle to court the high-class whores from Switzerland for the right to escort them for one mindblowingly extravagant month. The petty, political machinations of the bidding war have been embarrassingly unzipped by English football's very own Linda Tripp, prompting a lust-smitten pensioner to babble out his barely coherent thoughts on other countries' alleged underhand tactics to be awarded the 2018 tournament. This pathetic, tawdry exposé has been brought to us courtesy of a newspaper that loudly professes its patriotism, but has never quite managed to shift its position of openly supporting fascism in the 1930s. How cheap and dirty the voice of stiff middle England must now feel for its one-issue dalliance with Melissa Jacobs, but perhaps it's done England an unwitting favour. Cancel the party, and let's save ourselves the hassle. Apart from those seeking to bolster their political image, who really wants the World Cup anyway?

Any celebrations at winning the 2012 Olympics bid in 2005 were snuffed out by the London tube bombings the following day. This has been followed by predictably spiralling costs to build facilities and infrastructure (2003's projected budget of £4.5 billion has more than doubled), to be footed by you, the tax-payer, at a time when the levels of the country's national debt are worse than Euro-knackered Greece, the recent beneficiary of EU and IMF economic intervention. It's going to be some party in two years time. With how much conviction will you be able to cheer on the runners and the wrestlers in the knowledge that we're bankrupt, and that a single bomb could ruin everything? Bearing such burdens in mind, England's ongoing desire to host the World Cup makes even less sense, unless it's based on the desperate notion that it's the only way they'll ever come close to winning the thing again. ("There are some people on the pitch! Goodness me, they're debt collectors, digging up the Wembley turf to sell as souvenirs on Ebay! Oh, and congratulations to Italy on becoming World Champion again.")

From the home fans' point of view, going to World Cup games would offer the chance to fork out for excessively priced tickets, all the while listening to the media shriek that the whole country's hyper-thrilled to be welcoming the world to our grey and rainy island. If it wasn't such a bloated, sponsor-soaked event, they might feel differently, but watching from another country in front of the TV with a beer and a Panini album on your lap has become the least bothersome way to experience the World Cup. That way, you can focus on nothing more than the players and what they do on the field. In the end, would you rather blow your budget on an exhausting four-week party where half the guests are sycophantic liggers, or sit back in the pub or the living room with friends and family to enjoy a few dozen games of football for free? Ian Plenderleith

Comments (9)
Comment by Lincoln 2010-05-18 11:27:51

I would much rather be the guest of a party. I can see what it is like in someone elses house and experience how they run a party but mainly so I can get out of my own house which is depressingly grey and full of people who wind me up by reacting over the top to any little issue such as what Grandad trying to impress a young lady might have said. Or last week the state of the garden after having had to relay the turf near the pond.

Comment by Andy Hedges 2010-05-18 12:21:08

You miserable Sod!

Comment by Ronny Delgado 2010-05-18 14:09:42

PWC estimates that the UK can make £ 3,2 billion on the World Cup. Unfortunately, they don't tell how. When it is here in the low countries economics think we'll lose a billion. A counterparty, with ties to our Bid, believes the opposite.

Comment by Gangster Octopus 2010-05-18 14:34:04

"enjoy a few dozen games of football for free"

Wait until Murdoch gets his filthy fingers on it...

Comment by Sport Economist 2010-05-19 08:36:55

I couldn't agree more with the article and would enjoy watching a World Cup in Russia - I'm a firm believer that if a country that has not held the event before has thrown its hat in the ring and has the wherewithal to stage it, they should be given first dibs.

Also, in terms of England's national sporting achievement, they have already won one World Cup at home. Surely, for the sake of self respect, the next aim should be to attempt to win the thing on foreign soil? That goal won't be achieved by holding the party at home again.

As for the Daily Mail - ban it.

Comment by G.Man 2010-05-20 08:02:01

Speaking from the perspective of having a World Cup about to start, much of Ian's argument is spot on.

For South Africa, hosting the thing probably has a greater social relevance than it would for many other countries. Less than two decades ago, the country was isolated from the rest of the world because of apartheid. Add to that the geographical remoteness from those countries SA would like to measure itself against, and the potential of nation-building in a communal project. The dimension of aiding the national psyche also was at play in Germany 2006.

But England has no such needs or objectives. And the promised financial windfalls...well, it looks like South Africa is making a big loss.

The point about a new stadium for Chile vs Honduras is pertinent. FIFA bullied SA into building brand-new stadia in cities that won’t be able to sustain them. Nelspruit is a sporting backwater that needed no big stadium. Likewise Port Elizabeth and Polokwane. Between the three towns there is not one top flight football team (though PE might get a Super 14 rugby franchise at some point).

FIFA also bullied SA into building a new stadium in Durban, next to the King’s Park stadium which could have been renovated and upgraded, but will now be torn down. And the Western Cape’s premier has complained that FIFA virtually prescribed that the admittedly impressive and picturesquely located Cape Town Stadium be built at a location which local politicians — who surely know more about long-term sustainability than FIFA — did not prefer.

Comment by Dalef65 2010-05-20 18:26:34

G.Man,
No offence,but if FIFA had to bully South Africa into building decent stadia all over the place , perhaps thats an indication that the World Cup shouldnt have been awarded to the country in the first place?
It may not be PC to say this but there is a case for the WC to routinely go to "big" countries that already have the requisite facilities to host such an event.
I would include the likes of England and Germany in this,and maybe somewhere like South Korea (note maybe).
Im not too sure that taking the World Cup to places to "spread the word" eg USA94 or South Africa 2010 really works in the long run.
It certainly doesnt work for me, but time will tell.
Meanwhile let the debate continue before the games begin............!!!

Comment by G.Man 2010-05-21 06:36:45

Why doesn't it "work" for you, Dale65? Because of the distance?

FIFA could easily have said that five cities are enough, and not bully South Africa into building stafiums where PERFECTLY GOOD ONES already existed, as it did in Durban and (arguably) in Cape Town.

As for already existing stadiums, revisit Germany and how much rebuiding went into the 2006 World Cup, and let me know what you found.

Comment by Dalef65 2010-05-21 16:21:23

I said "it doesnt really work in the long run" if you read my comment......G.Man
Im sure youre not trying to tell me that football suddenly took off in the good ol US of A due to the world cup being hosted there in 1994 are you...?
Ergo taking the world cup to such places doesnt really work in the long run......!!
Nothing at all to do with the distance.....,as i said South Korea was arguably ok(did you read that bit?)
I reiterate that if FIFA has to actually bully a country into building adequate venues,then perhaps that country isnt ready to host the worlds top sporting event.
Why should FIFA mend and make do? FIFA rightly lay down the criteria by which a bid will be successful and then host countries have to fulfil these requirements.
YOU keep saying South Africa had to be bullied into compliance,well any way you care to look at it that doesnt work for me.
As for Germany, you know as well as I do that they were not bullied into anything,and none of the Stadiums built for 2006 have been left as white elephants

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