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Don’t blame FIFA, we’re just as bad as them

Simon Binns on the World Cup bid fallout and putting our own house in order

Written by . Published on December 10th 2010.


Don’t blame FIFA, we’re just as bad as them

The dust is settling (sort of) on England’s failed World Cup bid, which was met with an initial surprise last week that quickly gave way to outrage, accusations and some serious sour grapes.

The triumvirate of Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham – three people more far-removed from your average football fan you’d be hard-pressed to find – failed to convince the FIFA top brass that we really needed the tournament in 2018. Probably because we don’t. We wanted it, and that’s different.

Why we were so surprised that we failed is amazing in itself. To expect FIFA, an organisation dogged by allegations of corruption, not to give it to Russia, a country dogged by allegations of corruption, was perhaps naive.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, suggested that the World Cup – and the football itself – had ‘outgrown’ FIFA - effectively 22 old men sat in a room in Zurich - before saying they have to pay for their own hotel rooms at the London Olympics.

He might be right. But did he not see a resemblance to the state of our own set up?English football should be careful when firing barbs of self-interest and cronyism at FIFA, or anyone else for that matter. Just look at the way the Premier League board - a largely static collection of middle-aged men looking after their own interests – has taken the game far, far away from the grass roots and as close to its TV cash cows as it can. And still managed to get the majority of its members into debt.

How about the FA, which has allowed itself to be steam-rollered by one division of its domestic league and a TV company in the battle for the game’s ownership? Any chief executive that tried to challenge the status quo was roundly run out of town (see Crozier, Adam) or managed to balls it up for themselves by trying to touch up the secretary (see Palios, Mark, related to Eriksson, Sven-Goran).

I once sat in on a meeting between the FA, the Premier League, Sky TV and a few of the game’s other interested parties, in a previous job.

The attitude of Sky to any team other than the ‘big four’ was genuinely shocking. Fixture lists were an inconvenience, to be chopped and changed to suit broadcast, not the paying fan. The FA was constantly cowed as the money won again.

Middlesbrough v Southampton was a game that was best off on a Tuesday night, because ‘nobody really wants to watch that on a weekend, and certainly not on TV.’ Fans’ concerns were at the bottom of the pile. Nobody seemed overly bothered about ‘legacy’.

Bung allegations? We’ve got a few of those in the English game as well. It’s not confined to Sepp and his boys.

Panorama has investigated its own as well as FIFA, and the insistence of some that the screening of that documentary in the week the decision was due had derailed England’s efforts is far-fetched. FIFA will have known about the documentary for months, since the BBC got hold of the list of alleged payments to its officials in return for contracts.

The triumvirate of Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham – three people more far-removed from your average football fan you’d be hard-pressed to find – failed to convince the FIFA top brass that we really needed the tournament in 2018. Probably because we don’t. We wanted it, and that’s different. The glitz failed. Becks and Dave don’t have much else to fall back on. We lost a game of politics.

A positive? Manchester and Liverpool were two of the more prudent councils in terms of bid spend - £144,000 and £90,000 respectively. We were hopeful, but not banking on it.

Also, having been to World Cups in the past, cities are turned into public toilets for weeks on end. Normally by England fans, admittedly, but I won’t miss a Rangers re-run in Manchester.

Yes, it’s disappointing. I quite fancied Spain or Portugal for my 2018 summer holidays. Not Plymouth. Having been to Moscow a few times, it’s not the easiest of places to spend a week and the food is patchy.

But to cry foul is churlish. Russia – and FIFA – have simply done what English football has been doing for years. They followed the money.

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