After Russia was awarded the 2018 FIFA World Cup and Qatar the 2022 tournament, the media representatives, and presentation teams, for losing nations which fell at the first hurdle, have been swinging wildly at the FIFA Executive Committee’s decision-making processes.
Much criticism from losing bids in England and Australia – voted out at the first round of voting for 2018 and 2022 respectively – has centred around the fact that losing bids had believed they would receive more votes than they did.
“They Lied” claimed the English press, while Australia’s publications made similar claims after their 2022 bid received a solitary vote.
The feeling flowing from those behind these bids seems to be: ‘we wouldn’t have persevered with our bid, had we known we were going to lose.’ Such a sentiment seems strange. Just who, do these commentators imagine, would enter a vote they were certain of losing?
This is why FIFA have secret ballots.
Could a politician, having lost an election, come out and say “we’re upset to have lost, but we really rather wish the public had told us beforehand they weren’t going to vote for us, then we wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble knocking on all those doors?”
The current squabbling and whinging regarding the choice of which country hosts the World Cup perhaps best shows why sport is such a great leveller. Nobody can argue with the scoreline. At least they shouldn’t be able to.
We’ve seen in recent years that even this sportsmanlike tradition – that of accepting the referee’s decision as final – does not permeate far beyond the sportsmen on the field of play, at least in the big business that is modern association football.
The England-centric British media did themselves no favours by bemoaning the lack of goal-line technology after their nation’s 4-1 hammering at the hands of Germany in World Cup 2010.
Football has also recently seen Scottish referees openly criticised by backroom club owners, resulting in a walk-out by officials from top-level football in the country just a week ago.
In Australia, the national football association, the FFA, is suing The Age newspaper for claims it made regarding the use of funds for their 2022 bid.
The Respect campaign should go further than just curbing swearing at match officials. A culture of respect should enshrine football.
FIFA needs to show leadership, right now. There are certainly mixed messages that need to be clarified regarding FIFA’s role: just a visit to FIFA.com reveals a plethora of products available from regional ‘shops’: is FIFA a money-making concern, or the sport’s Governing Body?
This is important, for the other complaint being levelled at FIFA’s Executive Committee, and quite vociferously from some quarters, is that of “vote fixing” or “buying votes”.
The Sun, the biggest selling English newspaper, led with a simple headline: “Fixed” while The Daily Mirror, leading with “Sold”, questioned why Russia and Qatar had won, and insinuated strongly that the result was, in some way, down to the oil-derived wealth of both winning nations.
The inference from much of the English and Australian coverage seems to be that the FIFA voting process is corrupt. These accusations had been raised before the vote thanks to a number of expose pieces, but these did not derail any bids.
A decision, once made, should be final, whether that is a penalty being given – or even rescinded – or the decision regarding where to host a tournament. Complaints cannot come after the ‘wrong’ result.
If the English, Belgium/Netherlands or Spain/Portugal delegations were unhappy with the system for choosing the host nation of World Cup 2018, they should have pulled out before voting took place, and stated, publicly, their reasons for doing so.
Likewise, had Australia, Japan, South Korea or the USA pulled out citing concerns over voting protocol before the vote was held, it would be a different story.
Instead, some of those countries hoped to win, and complained afterwards that they had been led to believe that votes would be forthcoming for their bids.
Surely every national bid believes they will receive votes, otherwise, why enter?
It is impossible to ‘promise’ a vote in a secret ballot – for that would be, undoubtedly, corrupt.
The losing nations bidding for for World Cup’s 2018 and 2022 need to be careful that their sour grapes do not embitter the whole football world.
Unfortunately, judging by the current cries of “foul!” we may not have heard the end of this argument – and FIFA needs to come out and make a clear and firm statement, which every one of its composite associations needs to support 100%.
We in the media will continue to make noises, but the sport of football itself needs a show of root and branch strength and solidarity if it is to continue to prosper.
But, first and foremost, perhaps the people of England and Australia need to tell their media one thing: “get back in your box. We lost.”