Its only seven weeks since Spain won the 2010 World Cup but soon the spotlight will fall on the 2018 & 2022 tournaments. In a little over three months, the FIFA Executive Committee will announce who the successful bidders will be for both those tournaments, thus ending a bidding process which had its first deadline way back in February 2009.
As usual where FIFA, and in particular Sepp Blatter, are concerned there is an illogical process involved – in this case, why the decisions are being made at this time. The 2018 world cup will be held about seven and a half years after the announcement of the host. This is consistent with previous announcements – Brazil were announced as 2014 hosts in October 2007 and South Africa were confirmed as 2010 hosts in May 2004 – but the 2022 world cup will be held almost twelve years after the winning bid is selected!!
Quite why FIFA need twelve years for 2022 isn’t clear. In fact, as the first deadline was in 2009 it is actually a 13 year advance notice – almost twice as long as normal and almost twice as long as is generally required elsewhere. Twelve years is a very long time in the life of any country. Governments change, economies rise & fall, even the heads of the local FA’s will have changed a couple of times in that period. Technology will progress in areas we haven’t even thought of yet.
Clearly in order to adequately prepare the country, to improve and/or build the required stadia and build or create the necessary infrastructure to cope with the expected volume of supporters, any host needs a reasonable preparation time. Seven years it seems would be about the norm, and the IOC have a similar time span for the Olympic Games. Even the IRB announced the 2011 RWC hosts in 2005, six years ahead of the event.
The decision to announce hosts for both tournaments was taken at the FIFA Congress in Sydney in 2008. When asked to justify the decision, Blatters reply was “If we can offer two competitions for eight years to our partners and broadcasters and give extra time for planning, the economic result for FIFA will be better.” So its not about preparation, its about money? Are the financial rewards not lucrative enough for FIFA – and the host nation – with seven years notice? Admittedly, having been in South Africa for this years cup, an extra couple of years to get the infrastructure right would have been advantageous! The Gautrain, for example, linking Pretoria with Johannesburg was originally supposed to be ready for the World Cup but now won’t be completed fully until 2012!!! Similarly the rail line into Soccer City was one single track – hardly enough to move in excess of 80 000 fans.
Back in 2009 there were 11 hosting bids registered with FIFA but since then two have been withdrawn. A UEFA member is favourite to host 2018, as by then it will be 12 years since a world cup was held on the continent. The three favourites for that event are England, Russia and the joint Iberian bid from Spain & Portugal. Given that after 2002 Blatter made public his desire not to have any more “jointly hosted” cups it would seem to come down to England or Russia. 2022 is not so clear cut. If we exclude the UEFA countries, we are left with Australia, Japan, United States & Qatar. Its unlikely that Japan will win the rights, as they were hosts back in 2002 so that narrows the field to just three.
Though Australia are telling everyone how confident they are, the fact remains that the most successful world cup to date was held in the USA in 1994. Further, kick off times in the States are more conducive to the valuable European tv audience than kick off times would be in Australia. On the local front the signings of Beckham & Henry by MLS teams have raised the profile of the sport in that country and its hard to see FIFA missing the opportunity to really give the sport a major boost. Not to mention the extra finance of course…. Finance too will be Qatar’s major selling point but it would be a major surprise if a nation so small and with no world cup history were to win the bid. If a country of 50 million population cannot fill stadiums in 2010 then what chance has a country with less than two million? United States then will be the favourites.
Its highly unlikely that they will need twelve years to get ready.