Fifa committee votes to give the World Cup to the world

sepp blatter
FIFA President Sepp Blatter (Photo: Marcello Casal Jr. / ABr)

sepp blatter

A clue pointing towards England’s impending World Cup bid doom was coded in Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s speech as he addressed an audience gripped with anticipation in Zurich on Thursday afternoon.

“Let me say a few words about the importance of this game we call association football,” he said. “It has been originated in China but has been organised in Great Britain.”

By this point most of the English journalists sitting in that hall already knew that England’s bid had been spectacularly shunned by Fifa’s executive committee, meaning Blatter’s words simply rubbed salt into the wound.

But by effectively crediting China with the invention of the sport, was the Fifa chief aiming a subtle dig our way? Blatter, despite describing England’s final presentation as “remarkable” and “excellent” earlier in the day, is understood to have reminded the executive committee members about “certain media” and “recent media coverage” before they cast their votes behind closed doors.

Of course he could only have been referring to the Sunday Times and BBC Panorama allegations of corruption within the governing body.

And while it would be naïve to assume that the scandals did not have an impact on the England bid’s chances, it probably isn’t the whole story.

Fifa was clearly unimpressed with the accusations despite the Sunday Times investigation leading to two executive committee members being found guilty and suspended for corruption.

When the news of the bans given to Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii was confirmed to the media in mid-November, Fifa’s ethics committee chairman Claudio Sulser criticised the British newspaper’s report as “sensationalist”. Blatter himself later added that it was “not fair” on those accused.

But while Fifa’s stance on the ethics of investigative journalism may remain murky, it is clear is that the governing body is continuing to value the lasting impact that staging a World Cup can create for the host.

Fifa required all bidding nations to submit details on how the hosts would “use football as a tool for economic and social development” with their proposals.

And while one of England’s ideas, the ‘Football United’ concept to generate “significant funds for investment in football” for the development of the sport was credible, the Fifa members were clearly swayed by the lasting legacy that both the Russia and Qatar tournaments have vowed to leave behind.

Fifa has again been sold by the idea of using the tournament as a device to change the world for the better.

And as a disappointed John Barnes said on Thursday, it was to be expected. “I always felt it would be more than just who had the best bid,” he reflected. “Fifa have now decided that the World Cup is going to be moved around the world, and it should be.” And perhaps he is right.

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