Yes, it does reek of dodgy dealing. When England and Australia get three votes between them, from a maximum of 44, you know that something isn’t right.
FIFA being a corrupt organisation isn’t even slightly surprising. But, it’s so very, very obvious now.
Leaving aside the Russia bid, which had plenty of advantages going with it, I’d like to take a look at Qatar. Hosting the biggest sporting tournament in the world in just over 11 and a half years time, many have questioned the decision to award the tournament to the small Middle-Eastern nation.
I haven’t the slightest doubt that Qatar’s wallet was the main attraction for most of the voters but the decision has been made. FIFA have this terrible ability to ignore anything going wrong and staying the course.
So, lets look at some of Qatar’s problems and how they can be solved in the next 11.5 years.
Problem: The heat. Qatar, in the height of summer, regularly experiences 50°C temperatures.
Solution: According to the bid, state of the art air-conditioned stadiums. But the Qatari’s, openly, admit that such technology is not perfected right now. They’re relying on it being ready by 2022. Hmm. I suppose, with the money the state has to throw at the problem they might be able to do it, but that doesn’t sort out training camps, unless they’re covered too. FIFA won’t allow underground stadia, so that’s not an option. They could move the tournament to the Winter months, when the Qatar temperatures are more playable, but that would require wide-scale re-organisation of nearly every domestic league in the world.
Problem: Qatar’s size. The country will be by far the smallest to have ever hosted a World Cup. Considering that 3.5 million people attended South Africa 2010, and Qatar’s population is just 1.7 million, this is a problem. Right now, Qatar doesn’t have the infrastructure to even take the fans, let alone host games.
Solution: Just start building hotels. Lots and lots. Loads. Expensive and a long-term nightmare for Qatar when the tournament is finished but that’s the solution.
Problem: The stadiums that have to be built. After the tournament the country won’t have any need for them.
Solution: Qatar says they’ll rent out the stadiums to third world countries. Ideal in theory but they won’t be filled. They just won’t. Unless you can make the Qatar football league a gigantic mega fest, this is not a problem that can be solved, unless you just want to go for scrapping the stadiums.
Problem: Qatar itself. That is, its non-democratic government, human rights record (poor) and its antiquated labour laws. Qatar is not really the kind of country that the west warms to on those counts. Considering that much of the construction will be done by said abused labour, it’s a problem.
Solution: Well, I suppose Qatar could become a liberal democracy. Think they’d be up for it?
Problem: The team. The Qatari football team is poor, ranked very low by FIFA. This clip has been doing the rounds big time in the last while, as a demonstration of just how woeful the team is. They get automatic entry into the tournament as holders and some have a problem with that.
Solution: They just have to get better. They’ll get more investment and more attention. Keep in mind, there will be people in the 2022 Qatari team who are only six years old today. The team might improve, or like hosts have before (the US, South Korea) simply rise to the occasion.
Problem: Time zones. Qatar is a bit ahead of the main audience.
Solution: But only a few hours. Russia in 2018 will actually be worse. It’s not a big deal. A US Cup would have been worse.
Problem: Qatar, as a Islamic state, has strict rules regarding the consumption of alcohol.
Solution: Qatar has made passing remarks to specific areas where fans can drink to their hearts content but that’s vague. Barring a massive sacrifice in the nations values, they won’t be allowing a lot of bars to be built-in the next 12 years. All you can do here is make sure that whatever plan they come up with is implemented successfully without rioting being the result (yep, looking at the England fans right now).
Problem: Qatar is in the Middle East and has a defence pact with Iran. That is, it’s not in the most stable part of the world. The issue is security and the tournaments proximity to dangerous situations.
Solution: Qatar is actually quite stable, politically speaking. South Africa, 12 years before their tournament, was in much worse shape. This is not something that I would hold against Qatar. It’s not something that will go away, and its difficult to justify holding against the Arab world forever and a day.
So, while I don’t agree with the decision to award the tournament to Qatar, I don’t buy into the doom and gloom people are throwing at the country. There are problems, but Qatar has plenty of time, and more importantly plenty of cash, to sort it out.
I especially don’t like this sense of entitlement many English fans (and Americans I’ve noticed) are throwing around as if it is their sovereign right to host the tournament. The thing it, it isn’t. You can have all the stadiums, all the players, all the tradition, but FIFA is under no obligation to keep the World Cup in those nations. Russia is a better example of the organisation branching out then Qatar, but that’s the way it is.
English and American fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for the next few tournaments either. Plenty of other countries: China, India, Australia and joint Eastern European bids that FIFA will prefer. And the attitude, from the fans to the media, isn’t helping your cause.
Russia and Qatar played the game as FIFA wanted to play. England and America didn’t. And while they have their self-respect and the moral high ground, Russia and Qatar have World Cups. I don’t think they’ll mind the bribery accusations too much.