Grubby battle raging for a lucrative prize

 

SOCCER WORLD CUPS 2018 AND 2022:IF THERE’S one small mercy about the forthcoming general election campaign, it’s that it’s likely to be short and, given the national mood, unwanted callers are unlikely to come knocking for a second time.

Then, to spice things up a bit, you should throw the running of two elections simultaneously into the mix; that, and the rather laughable notion that candidates in the two different elections are prohibited from collaborating.

You are now getting some small sense of the way tomorrow’s elections of the World Cup host nations for 2018 and 2022 work.

Given the way the whole affair is organised and the character of some of the senior Fifa officials who get to vote, you might hope that nobody would decide to enter such an election in the first place. But of course, the prize on offer is enormous with billions of euro of business generated and hundreds of thousands of visitors up for grabs. Ultimately, everybody knows it’s a grubby affair but there is never a shortage of countries willing to get their hands dirty in the hope of success.

England’s bid this time is an object lesson in how things can go wrong when everyone is not at one on how best to pursue the prize. The association is poorly represented on Fifa’s committees and a large number of the seats they have are occupied by senior club officials who were supposed to be a key part in the bid but ended up being sidelined early on.

Then there is the media who caught out two of the then 24-strong electorate engaging in improper negotiations regarding their votes. The pair were stripped of their votes but the head of the Fifa ethics committee who heard the case sounded like he was reprimanding the journalists who caught them out.

This week, the BBC screened a documentary containing allegations relating to the behaviour some of the remaining 22, prompting bid chief Andy Anson to describe the corporation as “unpatriotic”. The charge may be ridiculous but so was the idea that the respective investigations would change anything.

The English FA, in any case, knew well what it was getting into when it decided to bid.

“If you’re going to enter a contest, you either accept the rules or you don’t enter,” says Keith Mills, a key player in London’s successful Olympic bid. “It’s like joining a club, you have to abide by the rules and, for us to continue bidding; we have to abide by the Fifa rules. . .”

Ironically, English officials had earmarked both of the men who lost their votes, Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti, as possible supporters in tomorrow’s ballot.

Given that they are considered to be lagging behind both Russia and the joint-Iberian bid, they can ill afford to lose votes and their desperate pursuit of Concacaf president Jack Warner for the three he effectively controls signals their predicament.

Without Warner the English are dead in the water, something that will not have been lost on BBC as its executives took the decision not to defer this week’s Panorama programme in which some of Warner’s previous conduct was scrutinised by Andrew Jennings, a reporter who has long pursued the delegate from Trinidad and Tobago.

England’s rivals will have welcomed the controversy. The Russians offer the sort of package that has appealed to Fifa of late; a slightly exotic destination, outside of the obvious industrialised nations but one with a highly supportive government anxious to use the staging of the tournament to make a larger statement.

Vladimir Putin’s commitment to staging the event has been unwavering and some €8 billion in spending has been promised in the event Russia wins tomorrow.

Behind the scenes, the bid team have quietly built bridges around the footballing world and Blatter, whose influence is huge, is rumoured to favour building on the decisions that handed their opportunities to South Africa and Brazil by going to eastern Europe for the first time.

The Iberian bid, powered by the Spanish, but with the Portuguese adding extra ingredients to the mix, looks to be the Russians’ main rivals and their apparent tie up with 2022 bidders Qatar along with the support the bid enjoys from South America should ensure they are in the race until the home stretch, even if the current state of their respective national finances makes some of their spending commitments look a little shaky.

The Dutch and Belgians look to be off the running with a bid that was originally pitched with 2022 in mind having to be focused on 2018 when the withdrawal of all non-European candidates for the earlier date made a win for a country from this neck of the woods impossible four years later. The prime ministers of both countries will be in Zurich tomorrow to add political muscle to a bid that has thus far been overly reliant on star power.

David Cameron will be there too, though, and anxious to make the same sort of last-gasp impact on this race that Tony Blair did when the Olympics were snatched from Madrid and Paris. Not much has gone his country’s way so far but it’s a tricky business to call. Far trickier, sometimes, than the games themselves.

How the vote will be taken

AFTER TOMORROW’S final presentations the 22 (23 if, as expected, Oceania gets its vote back) Executive Committee members will be given ballot papers for each of the bid processes with 2018 to be decided first.

The procedure is simple. Each member casts his vote in secret and if one bid receives an overall majority (12) it wins. If not then the last-placed bid is eliminated with a second ballot held to decide last place in the event of a tie. The process is repeated until there is an outright winner.

If there is a tie for first place at the end of the procedure, highly unlikely in the event that the electorate is 23, Sepp Blatter, who participates first time around as well, has a casting vote.