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2 Dec 2010

FIFA: Brilliance or Bribery?

The 2018 Football World Cup will be held in Russia, largest country in the world, one of the biggest economies and military superpowers. Also one full of corrupt police officers, alcoholism is commonplace and bribery.

FIFA head Sepp Blatter and Russia's Depute
Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov after the nation's success
However, nobody can argue that Russia do not deserve a World Cup, they have qualified for a few of them before, they are a huge superpower and they have the money and manpower to create the infrastructure. Russia is a huge market that FIFA have never before tapped in to and would be a very interesting atmosphere to hold a major tournament. They had already proven their abilities by winning the rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics and have shown that they have already got several high-quality stadiums around their large country.

Russia's biggest disadvantage is it's sheer size. It stretches from Moscow, a few hundred miles from Poland, to bordering the South China Sea. The difference in time is vast.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter reveals the 2022 host
The biggest shock of the announcements was that the tiny Arabian principality of Qatar would host the 2022 tournament. Rank outsiders, Qatar pulled off a huge coup to win the rights and has already raised many suspicions of bribery. Qatar made no secret of it's spending power, they have access to some of the largest oil fields in the world.

Their slogan 'Expect Amazing' perfectly captures the reaction to their astonishing success. Qatar will have to build 12 new stadiums in just 12 years. The stadiums will only be built for the length of the tournament, and afterwards they will be dismantled and the pieces used to build new stadiums in other 3rd World countries. This is all very nicey-nice and all, but why has FIFA abandoned the old footballing powers so quickly? Germany was the last 'old power' to host, it will be at least 2026 when an old power (Italy, Spain, England) can host the tournament.

Qatar have many high-profile disadvantages. The country is a muslim country. Meaning alcohol can't be consumed outside the home and only on certain days. A big part of the World Cup atmosphere is being able to sit in a pub and watch the game with a pint. That can't happen unless Qatar organise 'Fan Zones' which throws up even more problems (see what happened in Manchester 2008 when things go wrong). Also, the game will take place in the middle of the Arabian summer, where temperatures can reach highs of 45C, games will need to be played during the daytime to compensate for the time-difference to Europe, FIFA's main audience. Qatar has one advantage for the teams playing: All matches will take place within 60km of the Capital. This does cut down travel time for players and fans, but does it really make any difference when planes can take teams from America to London in just a few hours?

Suggestions of bribery have surfaced, Qatar being a very rich country, and the English media uncovered a number of voting members selling their votes for cash to be used for their own countries. Could Qatar have bought votes for cash? Or has FIFA president Sepp Blatter managed to convince his members that 3rd-World development is a better idea than rewarding traditionally successful footballing nations?

BBC Panorama's investigation drew criticism from the English Bid team
Did the English media again cost their country success? It was well accepted that the English media were partly to blame for their national team's failure at the World Cup after they continuously built up and hyped up England's chances only to savagely criticise them for losing. And then BBC's Panorama program aired it's investigation into FIFA's corrupt members. This program was aired on November 30th, less than 2 days before the bid. Should the program have been held back until after FIFA had finished voting? Did the program make the FIFA members retaliate by refusing to vote for a nation who's state media unveiled their corruption? This would be unacceptable and morally wrong, but with members such as Jack Warner - A man who owes his country's international players hundreds of thousands of pounds in UNPAID bonuses with NO intention of paying  - nothing is beyond possibility. And Mr Warner has 3 bids out of the 22.


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