Inquiries needed all round after World Cup bid ends on sour note

BORED of the 2018 World Cup bid yet? Tough, it is not an issue that should be swept under the carpet, but a wake-up call for governing bodies throughout the sport.

FIFA are the villains of the piece, but the problem lies closer to home.

Yes FIFA turned their back on the best packages – not only England for 2018 but Australia and the United States for 2022, three nations with the infrastructure in place that generated just six votes between them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Chosen instead to fly the flag for world football is Russia and Qatar, unpioneered lands with an infrastructure to build and little or no heritage.

Yes FIFA need looking at closely; the clandestine voting system needs to be more transparent and the suits in office need to concentrate on what is best for football, not their own personal epitaphs.

Maybe the timing of media investigations into FIFA was not right, but the morality of the exposure of bodies who are accountable only to themselves is in the public interest and should not be criticised.

After what has been discovered, and after strong bids were beaten by weak bids, do we really feel that the headquarters of world football is a place that holds the core values of the beautiful game at heart?

But the inquiry should not stop in Zurich.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The questions and the investigations should come home on the flights from the Swiss capital into Heathrow, and head straight to Soho Square.

Richard Caborn, the former Sheffield MP and minister for sport, called for it in these pages on Friday – a full and frank review of the Football Association from top to bottom.

Caborn has pushed for it before in the Burns Report of 2005, but it needs to be re-opened and attacked aggressively.

Root and branch.

Caborn levelled his criticism at the make-up of the 2018 bid board, condemning it for being an internal operation, when the London 2012 team hired professional outside help – and were successful.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Hugh Robertson, the man currently occupying that powerful ministerial role in government, said in the wake of the despair of the 2018 vote that something would happen 'next week'.

Next week is now, let us hope he stays true to his word and it is not a case of manana, manana.

At the heart of the deep-rooted problems within the English game is the power struggle between the FA and the Premier League – two powerful bodies who rub against each other rather than work alongside one another for the good of the game.

Club versus country is an issue that will never be resolved as long as the Premier League has such a vast purse.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

So it is time to bring in more pro-active, dynamic men at the top of the FA.

Men like Trevor Brooking, a tactful administrator buried away in an advisory role when his diplomacy skills, footballing brain should be put to better use.

Surround him with former professionals who know the game, know how to operate it and most importantly, know what the fans want.

Paul Elliott held himself with dignity throughout his role on the 2018 World Cup bid board. He played in Italy, has contacts with a powerful European ally – use them again and more frequently.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Then, of course, there is David Beckham. Once he hangs up his boots, get that iconic image, beaming smile and affable approach working for the English game, not in the dugouts, but in the boardrooms, the meetings, the corridors of power.

He has proven he is more than just a face for a bid. He tugged on the heartstrings with his cameo in England's presentation to FIFA that for all its character and class, mattered not a jot.

But Becks has appeal.

Like Franz Beckenbauer or Michel Platini, master technicians in a football kit or a business suit – they have already taken World Cups in 2006 and 1998, respectively, to their homelands – Beckham is a man that walks into a room and instantly commands respect.

Perspective should change at the FA. It may still be hard to swallow but it is clear FIFA is a closed shop to England.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The country has only one friend of the 21 non-Britons on the executive committee. As Norman Hunter said last week, 'they don't like us'.

If we are never going to win the World Cup, let us concentrate on the European Championships – they are better tournaments anyway.

Euro 2000 and 2008, in particular, were excellent tournaments, full of tight matches across the groups and the knockout stages. And let us face it, last summer's World Cup in South Africa was awful.

England showed in 1996 it can successfully put on a football party that enraptures an entire nation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The ship has sailed for 2016 – France will host UEFA's flagship tournament that has swelled to 24 teams – and while 2020 might be too early with four joint-bids spanning central to eastern Europe, 2024 is up for grabs.

Why not – the next chance we will get at a World Cup is 2030, by which time FIFA will probably have turned it's attentions to Greenland.

If FIFA are the villains of this piece, the fans are the victims.

As we experienced in 1996, the home of football produced a summer that will live long in the memory.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Contrast that with the mood last Thursday – one of despair and humiliation for a nation that from Sheffield to Sunderland, Leeds to London has football at its heart. The true reflection of the damage done in Zurich was not gauged at the weekend as snow bit a chunk out of the fixture programme.

Fans make football tick, and for them, for us, the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 will be staged in soulless countries.

But let us not dwell too long on who is to blame, and why, for this latest humiliating World Cup exit.

Let us use it to our advantage, moving quickly to change mentalities at home and abroad.