Five Reasons The England Bid Failed

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In their bid to secure the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the England Bid spent £10 million. Ultimately that bought them two votes, and one of those was from an Englishman. On Thursday, England once again put forth a bid, this time to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Once again they secured two votes and were quickly bounced from contention. Let’s assume they spent (at least) £10 million this time around.  That’s £20 million for four more votes than Uzbekistan, Yemen or Guam would have received. Heck, I bet even Qatar could have done better. Actually, they did, but that’s a different story.

England, The Home of Football. Birthplace of Becks. Host of the Best League in the World!

1. A failure to recognize FIFA’s desire to find new hosts

With the awarding of the 2002 FIFA World Cup to South Korea and Japan, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup going to South Africa, FIFA has made its intentions clear. When possible they like to give the tournament to new hosts. Yes, Germany got it in 2006. But let’s look at the pattern: 2002 (new host); 2006 (repeat host); 2010 (new host); 2014 (repeat host). So, 2018 was probably going to go to a new host. Enter Russia.  What could England have done? It would have required them to swallow some pride perhaps, but how about a joint Great Britain bid that included Scotland and Wales? That could have at least gone some ways to address the “new markets” issue. The Tour de France regularly travels to countries outside of France (including England), so precedent is there.

2. Assuming being the Home of Football stills means something

You always get the feeling that England feels it has some divine birthright to host the World Cup because they invented the sport. I think the rest of the world has moved on and probably resents being reminded of this constantly. Add to that the fact that just about every serious footballing country is better than England is right now and England hosting the World Cup seems like a quaint anachronism. Uruguay hosted the first World Cup, but nobody thinks they should host again either.

3. The English Media

It would not surprise me if an English newspaper editor set up a sting operation on their own mother. The English newspaper business is a vicious world of win-at-any-costs circulation battles fought by people who eat their young. Several probes into allegations of, I believe the polite term is improprieties (but let’s just say rampant corruption), at FIFA probably did the England bid no favors. This is the same media that vilified David Beckham after the 1998 World Cup, then waited breathlessly for him to change haircuts when they realized he was good for business.

4. A failure to understand (or play) FIFA politics

A cursory view of the voting results clearly demonstrates that the English simply have no clue how to play the FIFA game. Now, if your of the opinion that FIFA is a corrupt body (and you wouldn’t be the only one), then perhaps you admire England for not getting down in the mud. That’s fine, but then England probably shouldn’t be submitting a bid.

5.  Lack of imagination

When you look at the first four items on this list, some of these issues clearly were known or understood by the bid committee. As a result, a business as usual bid (we’re the home of football, we’ve got the stadiums, we’ve got Becks and Prince William) probably wasn’t going to be enough. This called for a different type of bid that didn’t rely on a brilliant 11th hour presentation, celebrity razzle-dazzle, or smartly designed brochure.  I know it’s wrong to highlight the problem without providing a solution, but I myself am at a loss here. Ultimately I think there are just too many things going against England right now.  If England wants to host the FIFA World Cup again in my lifetime, they’re going to have to change the current dynamics. Perhaps instead of trying to play a power card, they should flip the script. Suggest that as a small, struggling footballing nation, having an opportunity to host the World Cup could help the game grow in England and maybe someday the small island nation will be able to stand toe-to-toe with football powers like Holland, the Ivory Coast and South Korea.