Bidding for hosting rights to 2018 and 2022 closes
February 2nd marked the deadline of nations who wanted to register their interest to host WC in 2018 and 2022. Of course the big hoo-hah in the UK press has been how England deserves to/will/must/is the only choice to host the competition, but there are ten further bids FIFA will have to consider between now and December 2010, when the hosts for 2018 and 2022 are announced. Anyone remotely interested in sports will realise that the quality of the bid and the claims of the host only have a certain amount of persuasion towards the final decisions of the FIFA Executive Committee. As was proved in the bidding for 2006 (the last time England fell by the wayside in humiliation), Germany weren’t supposed to pip South Africa for the rights. Yet some interesting, behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealing in certain quarters, a spot of legal advice and an abstention later saw the Germans win by the odd vote in 23. It is also worth noting that, should a nation win the bid in 2018, no nations from that continent would be allowed in for 2022.
2018 and 2022 promises to be no different. Gone is the certainty of 2010 (South Africa were never really going to lose it, were they?) and 2014 (after you, Brazil) and in comes BID WARS. The esteemed Keir Radnedge of World Soccer Magazine expects the 2018 tournament to end up in Europe. Yet, reading what the equally esteemed Andrew Jennings has to say simply underlines the fact that secret deals and handshakes behind the scenes are where the hosts are decided. His article suggests Mexico are favourites on the back of CONCACAF henchman Jack Warner. This compelling article delves into the voting tendencies of the FIFA Executive Committee, noting how Warner and his cronies could very easily secure the votes of the CONCACAF execs (3, including Warner himself), COMNEBOL (3), along with likely votes from African and Oceanic representatives. 12 and past the post is the rule and even if England were to win all 8 European votes (unlikely, what with Spain and Russia wielding more power and influence, it still leaves a lot of brown-nosing for the FA and their bid team.
Losing out on 2018 would spell doom for England, especially as the Australian bid seems the strongest candidate for 2022. Surely FIFA cannot leave 20 years between tournaments based in Europe? Not highly-organised, flushed-with-money, strong-and-secure Europe? Don’t bet against it.
Here, the 11 bids are ranked from strongest to weakest, in terms of actual chances of hosting the competition. If the hosting rights were decided purely on strength of bid potential, 2018 would go to England and 2022 would end up in the USA or Australia.
1. Mexico – The Warner influence is strong, the support is there from all aspects of Mexican life and it will have been a mammoth 22 years since they last hosted it. Big bucks are to be had in the Spanish-speaking market, giving the Mexicans a strong run to hosting rights. Weak infrastructure and communications will count for little.
2. Australia – The desire is there for the WC to be pushed out to the last continent it hasn’t visited (are we talking about Oceania still?), while Government backing is strong. Blatter has informed the Aussies to aim for 2022 and with either Mexico or Europe getting 2018, this bid – with plenty of stadia already in place – looks strong. Exec. Backing could be a falling point, but the novelty value is there – provided they have the Asian block vote.
(2a. SPAIN - Nothing has been announced officially but Sepp Blatter has stated that joint bids have no chance of hosting. This gives rise to the possibility of Spain leaving Portugal (see 10) by the wayside. Plenty of Spanish-speaking clout on the Exec., along with a decent infrastructure and quality stadiums. It would be the strongest bid from Europe should they go it alone.)
3. England – Likely to struggle for votes against fierce European competition. A strong bid team has been assembled and all of the right noises are coming from them (‘we are not favourites, etc...), while everything is in place to put on a good show. Lessons have been learned from that doomed 2006 bid but as Jennings points out, the plethora of European bids are likely to cancel each other out.
4. USA – Stadia? Check. Fans? Check. Chance to sell a hell of a lot of tickets, sponsorship and marketing rights? Check. So why are they only fourth? Mexico appear to have stronger backing from CONCACAF and with only one shot at this, the Americans are likely to miss out. Undeservedly so though. Don’t discount the prospect of mega-money talking though.
5. Russia – A fair bit of cash can be thrown at the unknown and low-key Russian bid. A country of this size, looking to boost their position on the global stage, would split the European vote. Organisation is the key – is there enough in place?
6. Japan – 2002 co-hosts and a country with an increasingly strong voice in AFC – and FIFA – affairs. 2018 might be out of the question but, like Australia, they could provide an interesting host for 2022.
7. Qatar – Something of a novelty bid (see Libya 2010), what with their underground stadium and petrodollars to splash about. Little in the way of a football infrastructure means there would be an awful lot of work to do before a 2018 or 2022 competition. However, said cash (and oil) reserves, along with the (waning?) Mohammed bin Hammam yielding FIFA power gives the Qatari bid ‘dark horse’ status.
8. South Korea – They co-hosted 2002 with Japan and are capable of staging the show on their own. However, Japanese clout amongst the AFC and their Executives would knock this bid on the head.
9. Spain/Portugal – An Iberian tournament would nail a few votes from Spanish and Portuguese speaking Executives, but joint bids are likely to struggle against those single bids above. Which means Spain will probably go solo.
10. Netherlands/Belgium – The Euro 2000 co-hosts need to see a numberof stadiums expand above the 40,000 all-seater criteria set out by FIFA for a start. With joint bids set to be discarded in favour of technically-strong single nation bids, this one looks dead and buried.
11. Indonesia – As much as I would like to see a WC in a country such as Indonesia, there is no way their bid will stand up against the likes of those above. They are the fourth best bid from the AFC and only have one stadium to write home about.