Two new frontiers of football were opened today, when FIFA announced the sites of its 2018 and 2022 World Cups: Russia and Qatar, respectively.
FIFA officials say they are following the same philosophy that gave South Africa and Brazil a kick at World Cup glory. That is, they believe they are ahead of an economic wave, and that emerging nations hold the future of the game.
Like bullets with butterfly wings, countries with dark histories of oppression and poverty will now be shining beacons of economic prosperity… and FIFA is doing its part. Nations like South Africa/Brazil/Russia/Qatar will emerge from their shadow of aparthied/absolute squalor/communism/massive economic inequality to build soccer stadiums that will save the world.
You’ll forgive my cynicism when I say, “Pfffffft”.
It appears that Russia and Qatar get the goodies because they can afford to play ball. According to recent media reports, oil-rich Russia and oil-richer Qatar (a bit of a theme, no?) can afford to open their wallets, while keeping their mouths shut.
England? Never had a chance. CONCACAF President Jack Warner has made no effort to hide his loathing of the United Kingdom… and recent eks-poh-zayz by the Sunday Times and the BBC alleging that he took some serious graft did not help their chances.
England’s bidding committee promised state-of-the-art stadiums that host the world’s most lucrative football division, the Premier League, with global marketing appeal. They have shiny new infrastructure in anticipation for the 2012 Olympic games. And they have a rabid fan base that is apropos for the game’s birthplace. England promised FIFA money, money, money. But not this time.
England is also a democracy that must jump through level after level of bureaucratic hoops to get anything done. Despite appearances, Russia remains under the thumb of Vladimir Putin… and Qatar is a kingdom — and not the nominal one we have in the UK and the Commonwealth.
It may be true that Russia and the Middle East and Africa and South America are untapped markets, whose ability to host world events will grow as their economies rebound from the world recession. It could be that the old North American and European powerhouses are tired and unable to sustain themselves for much longer.
But don’t believe for one minute that FIFA officials gave Russia and Qatar their rights on the basis of macroeconomics. They were just following the money… and riding the wave.
Note: At The Rails is neither confirming nor denying any of the allegations made against FIFA officials. It is merely reprinting media reports. Many of the allegations were originally made in the Daily Mail and on the BBC by journalist Andrew Jennings. His website, Transparency in Sport, expands on his theories. You can also read his book, Foul, as well as the Lord of the Rings… where he makes several allegations against the International Olympic Committee.