How prophetic were Federal Sports Minister Mark Arbib’s words before he left for Zurich and the World Cup hosting announcement, when he said on Fox Sports FC “You can never trust anyone unless they are saying they are not voting for you.” Australia being the first eliminated in the voting for the 2022 World Cup.
Australia found out the painful way that Politics in World Sport, especially in FIFA are far from straightforward. Sadly we are very much the new boys on the block and were trying to play the game with entrenched well established ties; ties that many have tried to break and have been unsuccessful.
Hopefully we can learn from this disappointment, and in the next four years quietly go about our business with FIFA and the AFC making sure that we are closer to the key players than we currently are or thought we were.
Australia needs to take a quieter approach in the ensuing years as it has not endeared itself to a lot of nations, established nations who hold a great deal of sway. Its boast that it would win the Asia Cup four years ago still rankles with many in Asia. Many in Asia also interpreted Australia’s bid so soon after being admitted into the Asian Confederation as a bit of an affront.
The bid Committee had a tough task to convince the rest of the World to vote for Australia when many on their doorstep were not even supporting their bid.
Let us regroup and put on the best Asia Cup in 2015, and show the rest of the World that we can host top football tournaments. Let us start moving ahead with some of the redevelopment of grounds so that we can show we have the facilities next time around. Let us not wait until we bid again in the hope of winning before we lay these foundations for the future.
Is it a coincidence that Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, claimed just prior to the voting that certain members of the FIFA executive committee had been “compromised and smeared in dirt.” This was a very calculated statement and one that may well have swayed them to vote in Russia for the 2018 hosting rights.
The World Cup bid sadly has nothing to do with Fair Play, one of FIFA’s buzz words. There is no doubt the voting process needs reviewing, but again getting the majority of the FIFA executive to vote for such a review is unlikely to happen in the near future.
It is time to applaud the efforts of all concerned, after all the Olympics were not won in a day. Australia can host the World Cup of that this no doubt, but we have to mature in terms of the political machinations that take place and have taken place since Joao Havelange wrested the power of FIFA from Stanley Rous back in 1974. Sometimes it does not come down to being the best, sadly as in life in top level sports administration, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. As the new boys on the block, we simply did not know the right people.
Miscalculations were undoubtedly made, but let us learn from these and ensure that next time we are stronger and wiser and better placed to be in with a chance of winning the greatest sporting event on the planet.