“Fifa is a waste of space. It’s a money making organisation and I don’t think they give a damn about football.”
That was the damning verdict of the Leeds United chairman, Ken Bates following FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.
For many years, there have been accusations about FIFA. One journalist in particular has spent many years trying to uncover what really goes on behind the doors of FIFA. However, as they are based in Switzerland, getting access to documents and their bank accounts has proved impossible.
The 2018 and 2022 hosting announcements aren’t the first time FIFA has been surrounded in controversy. In 2000, Germany were awarded the 2006 tournament when many believed South Africa would win it. Immediately after the result, Sepp Blatter announced that from then, hosting would be rotated round the continents and in 2010, it would be Africa’s turn. With only 1 serious candidate, it was always going to be South Africa.
In his book, “Foul“, Andrew Jennings stated that Blatter had promised both Germany and South Africa the 2006 tournament in return for votes in a FIFA presidential election. As president of FIFA, Blatter would only have a casting vote in the event that the FIFA delegates voted in equal numbers on the choice of a venue. As the date of the vote drew near, it became apparent that the vote would be 12-12 meaning Blatter would have the deciding vote. As he had promised both countries the tournament, this would put him in a difficult position.
During the vote, the New Zealand delegate Charlie Dempsey abstained from voting after the first two rounds. Although he had voted for England in the first two rounds, his vote was going to South Africa now England was eliminated. It meant Germany won the vote 12-11.
Moving forward to the 2018 bid, England were fancied by many from day one. By 2018, it would be 52 years since they hosted the tournament. The facilities and infrastructure is all in place the there would be no issue selling tickets. The bid was presented by David Beckham, Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William. It was an excellent presentation to showcase an excellent bid yet it received just 2 votes out of the 22. Russia were eventually awarded the tournament with another very good bid.
It wasn’t so much the defeat, it was the manner of the defeat. How could such a good bid attract 2 votes, one of which were from Geoff Thompson, the English FIFA delegate. In the days before the vote, David Cameron and Prince William had been verbally promised votes from 8 delegates in face to face meetings. England had been humiliated.
The 2022 vote was even more farcical with the desert state of Qatar being awarded the tournament. Aside from its appalling human rights, dubious policies on both Israel and gays, there is absolutely no football culture to speak of in the country. Summer temperatures will hit 50 Celcius. Is this really a better option than the United States, Australia, South Korea or Japan? I think not. Take away the migrant workers in Qatar, the population is around 200,000 which is smaller than Reading or Newcastle upon Tyne. Just a few weeks before the bid, FIFA rated Qatar as “High Risk”. Across the 2 votes, England, USA and Australia had the best technical bids and won just 6 votes.
In short, the whole thing stinks. In England, it didn’t take long for a reaction. A planned friendly in Thailand scheduled for June 2011 has been cancelled after the Thailand delegate voted for Spain / Portugal. The English FA has also ploughed millions into football development in Africa, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. This programme will now be scaled back with the money being invested at home instead.
The FA acting chairman has also made a stand. Roger Burden had planned to run for the full time post but has withdrawn his application. In a statement he said “I recognise that an important part of the role is liaison with FIFA, our global governing body. But I am not prepared to deal with people whom I cannot trust.”
So what is the answer. Its quite clear to me that when it comes to FIFA, Ken Bates isn’t far off the mark. They use football as a platform to chase the dollar. Anyone who went to Germany in 2006 or South Africa in 2010 will vouch for that.
I believe that England and other leading nations need to split from FIFA and form a new federation. England, Spain, Germany, Holland and France could be a core group of nations. Others could be free to join. Outside of Europe, the two big nations are Brazil and Argentina. Brazil would break away too as all they do is tour the world playing friendlies.
Without these nations, a World Cup would have virtually no prestige and I seriously doubt sponsors would continue to throw money at FIFA if this was the case. Something has to be done to change things. World football can not continue to be controlled by 22 men who are accountable to no-0ne and conduct all their business in secret.
If you want to read more about Andrew Jennings work to try to uncover corruption within FIFA, you can find his excellent book FOUL on Amazon.
Is withdrawing from FIFA the only option? Maybe you have a better idea?