Posts Tagged ‘World Cup’

Disappointed But Not Angry With World Cup Bid Results

December 4, 2010 2 comments

Before I started the exercise and weight loss portion of my life change, I knew nothing about soccer.  I did however know what it was like to sweat while eating.

Fast forward 2 years and I’m a soccer fanatic.  I watch it constantly and am even learning how to play.  So I actually cared when on Thursday, the international governing body for soccer chose the host countries for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  The 2018 Cup was awarded to Russia, which beat out, among others, England, which was the favorite based upon projected return on investment and infrastructure.  The 2022 Cup was given to Qatar, which beat out the favored United States bid.

A simple Google search shows that pundits and citizens alike in the US and England are crying foul, vowing inquests and reforms, and generally scratching their heads.  True, both Russia and Qatar’s bids were not favored.  Both countries are awash in petro-dollars and eager to improve their world standing, facts I reflexively tweeted when I first heard the news.  And FIFA’s reputation for integrity is not exactly stellar–it’s been referred to as the “Enron of sports” for a stream of scandals involving selling votes, monopolizing ticket sales and controlling construction contracts.

The English bid was likely damaged by an episode of the investigative news program Panorama which aired just a few days prior to the FIFA vote.  The program brought attention to a host of improprieties allegedly committed by members of the World Cup bid selection committee as well as a laundry list of special tax breaks the winning host nation must provide FIFA.  All in all, it’s pretty easy to see why most observers believe that something is not on the level.

I originally agreed until I read this article, also cited above, that discusses the generally crooked nature of not just FIFA but virtually every one of its contingent associations that make up world football governance.  The situation is similar to the baseball steroid scandals of the last decade.  In my opinion, I can’t be too judgmental of a player who breaks the rules when the entire system is crooked–Barry Bonds may have taken steroids but so did a lot of the pitchers he faced.  So if Qatar and Russia broke the rules, it’s highly unlikely they did so alone.

Most convincing though were the comments of Fox Soccer Channel’s Bobby McMahon, the godfather of soccer commentators, in this country anyway, who said that FIFA “knows that they’re going to make tons of money through TV rights wherever they go and they pretty much know that somebody is going to pull it off because they’re going to pump money into it.” (“Fox Soccer Report” on Fox Soccer Channel, 12/2).  McMahon added that countries now place so much importance on successfully hosting large events like the World Cup and the Olympics that they will dedicate whatever money, resources, time, etc., are needed to not just host a successful event but to out-perform any preceding iteration.

And by awarding the bids to Russia and Qatar, FIFA can further its goal of spreading soccer across the globe.  Russia has never hosted a World Cup and the Middle East has never hosted any major world sporting event.  Qatar may be the size of Connecticut with a population equal to the metro area of Jacksonville, FL, but take a look at what they have planned for the event venues–the World Cup games will require 12 new stadia.  Sit on the top row of one stadium and you’ll likely be able to see two others.  Our gas money at work.  Here’s a few pics to whet your appetite:

Al-Rayyan Stadium

Lusail Iconic Stadium

Doha Port Stadium

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