Sunday 5 December 2010

Time to reform FIFA, but we have to do it from the inside.

Well how humiliating was last Thursday for England, in our failed bid for the 2018 World Cup.

It's one thing to watch England perform ineptly on the pitch and rightly get knocked out of World Cup Finals, it's totally different when you see a strong and credible bid only manage to secure two votes from a possible 22 available and not even make it past the first round of voting.

If we've learnt anything from last week's vote, it's this. Firstly, England has no political influence whatsoever within FIFA. We'll never hold a World Cup again until this changes.

Secondly FIFA has reduced the World Cup to an embarrassing bidding contest where countries demean themselves by begging cap in hand for the once in a lifetime chance of holding the World Cup.

It's worse than watching X Factor!

Over the last year, I've been quite indifferent to this World Cup bid. Call it an arrogant English sense of entitlement, but I couldn't understand why our bid was struggling to gain any momentum.

England's strength's seemed obvious. The best stadiums in the world, an infrastructure already in place, and a passion and footballing culture respected and envied around the world.

Add to this our technical bid and presentation said to be the best, and it still wasn't good enough to get past the first round of voting! Totally ridiculous!

In a press conference in response to England's failure, chief Executive of the bid Andy Anson claimed FIFA had told him England's bid was being killed by the British Media, following investigations by the Sunday Times and the BBC's Panorama programme into corruption within FIFA.

England 2018 Chief calls for FIFA reform

My first reaction is to think how arrogant must FIFA be if it thinks that countries with independent media can't investigate allegations of corruption within the organisation.

It was good to see BBC Director General Mark Thompson come out today and defend the BBC's decision to screen the Panaroma documentary.

Ok, the timing wasn't great but why should we be embarrassed about having a free media?

If that's something FIFA are uncomfortable with, then awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia is the perfect choice. There are few places in the world were being a journalist is more dangerous than in Russia.

The truth is England had no chance of winning this bid. The decision had been made a long time ago and it's clear that FIFA is keen to take the World Cup to new territories.

We've had Japan/South Korea in 2002, South Africa earlier this year, so there's logic in taking it to Russia. I understand that, I just wish FIFA would be more open and honest about these things.

As for the Qatar holding the World Cup in 2022 - that's a nonsense. What possible reason is there to have a World Cup in Qatar or anywhere in the Middle East?

If you look at the reaction of the UK media, particularly the Press then many of our opponents can argue that we're all bad losers.

Perhaps we could go away and accept our defeat with quiet dignity, but on this occasion why should we?

FIFA's an organisation that is mired in corruption allegations, doesn't know the meaning of the words transparency or accountability, with members who act as if they're untouchable and above public scrutiny.

It would be easy for England to stand on the sidelines screaming abuse at FIFA. It's understandable to ask, who wants to be part of this organisation?

The truth is we're only going to change things by gaining more influence, and that means having prominent figures from English football working at the highest levels of FIFA.

A policy of splendid isolation won't work for anyone, we need to get involved, become more politically savvy and change FIFA for the better.

England's bid was far from perfect. To begin with it lacked focus, and we've probably been naive about the politics of bidding for the World Cup.

In saying this we still produced a bid that was highly attractive and the idea of a World Cup in England sells itself. There's no reason for us to feel embarrassed.

Returning to England's bid CEO Andy Anson, he gave this advice to other countries considering bidding for the World Cup.

I would say don't bother [bidding to stage a World Cup] unless you know the process is going to change.

I have to agree.

Read some of the press reaction to England's failed bid

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