BY 2030, the next time England could possibly host the World Cup, I expect Fifa to have changed. I think the Football Association will lobby massively for that to happen following the ridiculous humiliation they endured over their bid to host it in 2018.
That change could mean each member association having one vote, instead of it being in the hands of 24 all-powerful executive committee members. Or it could mean greater transparency, with bids being judged more on their technical merit.
But one thing seems certain: it is the only way England look likely to win the bid battle. They had the best technical bid this time, and that wasn’t enough to get more than two votes. The only alternative is incentivising individuals, but the FA wants to win fairly.
First let me make one thing clear: I can understand the vote going to Russia and I don’t have a problem with that. They have the financial muscle to stage such an event, and do all the work necessary in the meantime. It should be great for them and could be a very good World Cup.
What I do have a problem with is England getting just one vote in the ballot, other than from their own representative on the committee, Geoff Thompson, when the bid was so strong. This is the country in which football is most established in the world; the mechanics are all there. So the bid team focused on showing how good it could be commercially, which on paper is perfect. England gave a terrific presentation; even Sepp Blatter said it was remarkable.
But the problem seems to me to have been that the momentum was all in favour of taking the tournament to new frontiers, such as Russia and, incredibly, Qatar in 2022. If Fifa knew that was what they wanted, why invite bids from other countries, who wouldn’t, by that criteria, have a fair chance?
Perhaps England’s team was naive. After all, they should know how Fifa works by now. They seemed blinded by their own technical claims, while media criticism of Fifa certainly played a part.
It’s all hugely disappointing for the FA, who were looking at the World Cup as a massive catalyst for investment, and the game in this country would have benefited hugely.