The fall-out from FIFA’s utterly predictable decision to chase the World Cup Gaz-ruble/Petro-dollar has begun in earnest this morning, with the English media’s reaction swathed in varying hues of frothing umbrage; be it with a flurry of archetypal thinly-veiled racism, über-obnoxious pontification and/or weapon’s grade blame dispersal.
The nation’s front pages are awash with monosyllabic denunciations of FIFA’s apparent malpractice this morning, with the Daily Mirror opting to emblazon their copy with ‘SOLD’, whereas the Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Star and Daily Express are have also chosen to run with ‘FIXED’, ‘THEY LIED’, ‘WHAT A FIX!’ and ‘HUMILIATED’ respectively.
I think you get the jist. Russia is a heartless mafia state and only beat good old jam-scones-and-village-greens England because FIFA are definitely in cahoots with the KGB.
That said, amidst all the frothing and fuming comes perhaps the most surprising element of the initial recriminations.
It would seem that England 2018’s bid leaders are genuinely surprised that the geriatric glad-hands that make up FIFA’s ExCo (a committee famed for it’s ‘flexibility’) chose to renege on their sh*t-grinned promises to back the English cause.
Just for the record, hours after being told that their bid was ‘remarkable’ by FIFA president Sepp Blatter himself, England were eliminated after the first round of the ballot, securing just two votes (one of which was their own) whilst Holland/Belgium’s naff pitch accrued four, Spain/Portugal seven and eventual winners Russia nine.
England’s bid team have been quick to capitalise on the empathy being afforded to their efforts, with chief exec Andy Anson fueling the ire by openly claiming that the FIFA members lied about their votes, whilst mourning the £3 million that England spent on producing their glowing technical report (as well as the further £12 million used to fund the bid itself) as money ‘down the drain’:
“David Dein, myself, David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William were looking people in the eye and asking them for their vote and being told ‘yeah’. I am not sure what else you could do.
“I am not going to name names because that is not fair on individuals but clearly some people have. We thought we had more than six votes, perhaps seven or eight.
“The technical report is £3million down the drain by the looks of it. We spent £3million on it and it was the best one. The two bids with the worst technical reports won.”
Anson also admitted that, as long as the current fallible World Cup voting process is in place, it would be pointless for England to bid for hosting duties again:
“I would say right now don’t bother [bidding again] until you know that the process is going to change to allow bids like ours a chance to win.
When you have the best technical bid, fantastic inspection visits, the best economic report, and, from what people told us, the best presentation, it’s quite hard to stomach that all that seemed to count for absolutely nothing.”
Stopping short of pleading for a procedural overhaul, Anson also bemoaned the influence that the FIFA ExCo are currently allowed to wield:
“Having only 22 guys only voting gives them too much influence. Running two bids together was clearly a huge mistake. Everyone who had a vote and a bid clearly wanted to trade that vote for something that helped them get over the line in that campaign.
Australia had a very good bid and got one vote, we had a very good bid and we got two, the USA had an unbelievably strong technical bid and got three. There’s something not quite right.
You have to open it up to all member associations and have transparency and open voting so everyone knows who voted for whom. With 22 guys having so much power it becomes very, very difficult.”
How depressingly true.
Those of you who are still feeling sore over FIFA’s jilt may choose to blame the intrusive habits of the nation’s media, BBC Panorama‘s lack of tact, FIFA’s readiness to plunder the resources of untainted footballing frontiers, Lord Triesman‘s loose tongue, Birmingham City fans or all of the above but – for me, an indivdual with no particular interest in seeing ‘football come home’ – yesterday’s debacle raised but one sobering issue.
Never has an enforced FIFA reform seemed both so pressing and so very, very distant.