Two Weeks and Counting…

There are just two weeks to go until Australia finds out if it has been successful in its bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

Winning the right to host the greatest sporting event on earth will not be something that saves the game, as it has survived great turmoil over the past hundred years, and is still here, but it does have the potential to change it forever.

One thing that FIFA takes great pride in is the fact that it runs the most popular game in the World. Hopefully it will decide to show the unbelievers in this region of the World just how big the game is by granting Australia the hosting rights.

Accusations of corruption have always been rife when voting for World Cup host nations, and when voting can determine your position in FIFA, votes can be awarded for the wrong reasons. The mere fact that for the first time the FIFA executive are voting on the hosting rights for two World Cups at the same time, has never been adequately explained raises questions. Many believe that this could well be linked to the fact that FIFA president Sepp Blatter is up for re-election in the New Year.

Blatter managed to use the bidding for the 2006 hosting rights to secure the position as FIFA President. He had ‘promised’ South Africa that they would host the World Cup in 2006, and at the same time assured Europe that they too would host the event. Those assurances guaranteed him another term in office. When it came down to being between South Africa and Germany, he may have been forced to show his true colours, and use his casting vote as President had the last round seen both countries tied. This is when Charles Dempsey the Oceania representative abstained even though instructed to vote for South Africa. This gesture, which many say was influenced by the FIFA president, saved him having to vote, and saw Germany come out as victors. Blatter then promised Africa the next World cup in 2010 barring any other nations to bid.

Dempsey incidentally retired from FIFA in 2000, but was awarded the FIFA Order of Merit in 2004, many speculating that this was given as a gesture of gratitude.

Are we likely to see a similar stunt with 2022? The USA have been very clever withdrawing from the 2018 bid, leaving it to all European nations, and no doubt saying ‘we will withdraw as long as you –UEFA – support us for 2022.’

The USA will have plenty of appeal in terms of television rights, the timing of games and the audience. It will also have been 28 years since it last hosted the World Cup. Commercially it will appeal to FIFA, as Germany did in 2006.

FIFA however may be tempted to plump for Australia, in order to assist one area of the World where the game has to fight for everything it achieves. It is attacked constantly from all sides and FIFA may see the awarding of the World cup to Australia as the perfect opportunity to flex its muscles in this part of the world.

What should not be discounted is another South Africa. Voices claiming Australia and Asia deserve to host 2022, but when the USA win the rights on commercial grounds, FIFA announces that only Asian nations can bid for 2026.

One thing is for sure when it comes to FIFA no one can ever predict which way the dice will fall. Hopefully they will strike a blow for football in Australia and not give way to internal politics. Maybe it is time that Dempsey’s gesture – as unsavoury as it was – is repaid, and Australia at that time was in Oceania!

Two Weeks and Counting…
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