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The corruption charges just keep on coming in FIFA. President Sepp Blatter has been the center of a world of controversy surrounding the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and he has vowed to clean up FIFA in his run for yet another term as the organization's President. If new reports from the Sunday Times in England and the Associated Press have any truth to them, Blatter has a great deal to work to do, as six FIFA Executive Committee members are now accused of wrongdoing during the World Cup bidding process.
According to evidence submitted to the British Parliament by the Sunday Times, Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast were allegedly paid $1.5 million in bribes to vote for Qatar to win the bid for the 2022 World Cup. Additionally, members of the England 2018 bid have described Nicolas Leoz, Ricardo Teixeira, Worawi Makudi, and last but not least, Jack Warner as "improper and unethical."
Hearing Warner, who just won another unopposed term as CONCACAF's President, described as improper and unethical will be of no surprise to soccer fans in North America. Warner and the Football Association of Trinidad and Tobago did not pay that country's players wages that they were promised for the 2006 World Cup, and Warner was also busted for selling tickets he was allocated by FIFA for his own personal profit. Despite these transgressions, Warner continues to hold his position as CONCACAF President and FIFA Executive Committee member.
These six executive committee members don't include the two members who have already been reprimanded after being caught for corruption, Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti. They were caught for their crimes in October, also busted by an investigation by the Sunday Times.
As a result of these developments, the British government has called on FIFA to adopt new policies to root out corruption, similar to the International Olympic Committee.
For the first time since England failed in its bid to host the 2018 World Cup, Sepp Blatter met with the England Football Association to discuss a variety of things as part of the beginning of his campaign to be reelected FIFA president. Blatter is being opposed by Mohamed bin Hammam in the upcoming election for the top post in FIFA and in his meeting with the FA, sought to clear the air about some of England's concerns.
The English were furious with the decision to award the 2018 World Cup hosting rights to Russia when they believed they had the best bid. Since the vote, most of the vitriol about the alleged corruption in FIFA that led to awarding Russia the right to host in 2018 and Qatar the right to host the 2022 tournament has been aimed at Blatter. Of course, Blatter didn't do himself any favors when he responded to the England FA's anger by labeling them "bad losers." Now though, Blatter needs the support of the English because Europe is expected to be the key battleground in the June 1 election and as a major football power, England has plenty of influence.
First and foremost, Blatter stated that the awarding of the World Cups to Russia and Qatar was not a personal mission to spread the game to new parts of the world. He made that especially clear to FA chairman David Bernstein, although that does run contradictory to a statement Blatter wrote and published on the FIFA website in December, shortly after the hosting rights were awarded.
"We have made historic decisions in terms of sport and geopolitics. We've sent the World Cup to new territories," Blatter wrote.: The 2018 World Cup will go to eastern Europe and the vast country that is Russia, and the 2022 event will go to Qatar, in the Arab world. "The World Cup will discover new cultures in new regions, and that's something I'm delighted about."
Blatter also reassured Bernstein and FA general secretary Alex Horne that FIFA will not hold votes for multiple World Cups at the same time again, something that was done for the first time when the 2018 and 2022 tournaments were awarded in December. Whether that assurance matters or not is in question. If FIFA returns to the policy they held for every World Cup before 2018 and 2022 and awards the hosting right six to eight years before the tournament, Blatter will not be a part of FIFA when the 2026 event is awarded. He has promised that if he is reelected in June it will be his final term and he will not run again in 2015.
The FA will decide which candidate they will back in a May board meeting and bin Hammam will meet with the FA later this week to discuss his plans for FIFA. During Blatter's meeting, the FA quizzed Blatter on all matters FIFA and plan to do the same with bin Hammam. The FA previously asked Blatter his his reelection manifesto, a request Blatter complied with and it is understood that bin Hammam will comply with as well. Despite the extensive meeting, the FA declined to disclose any details of the meeting, instead releasing a statement on the topics discussed.
"The meeting covered a range of topics including a review of recent decisions taken by the International Football Association Board. FIFA committee issues, the international football calendar, third party ownership, the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the process of bidding to host FIFA World Cup tournaments," the FA confirmed. "Mr. Blatter also took the opportunity to update the FA on his candidacy for a further term as FIFA president."
Vote trading occurred when FIFA's executive committee awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. That's both a statement of what's been common knowledge and a report this evening out of England, where a Sepp Blatter interview with the BBC led to the FIFA president's confirmation that deals were make between groups bidding for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
The 2018 World Cup was awarded to Russia in December. On the same day, Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament. Both decisions were received harshly by the English-language press, particularly in England and the United States, nations whose bids to host the tournaments failed to win the approval of the executive committee.
Per the BBC's interview (in comments published this evening at The Telegraph), Blatter says the Spain-Portugal group (2018 bidders) was acting in conjunction with the Qataris, creating a block of votes that supported Spain-Portugal for 2018, Qatar for 2022:
"I’ll be honest, there was a bundle of votes between Spain and Qatar," Blatter said. "But it was a nonsense. It was there but it didn’t work, not for one and not for the other side."
Paul Kelso, reporting for The Telegraph, tries to provide reason to question Blatter's assertion, though the logic is less salient than descriptive. Noting that the Spain-Portugal bid received seven votes in the 2018 process, Kelso extrapolates what similar influence may have done for the 2022 decision:
If, as Blatter claimed yesterday, Qatar received the same seven votes, it provided more than half of the 12 they required to win.
Whether Blatter or Kelso feel the block influenced the outcomes is likely irrelevant, for a couple of reasons. First, it's unlikely that we'll ever have enough certain information to examine the voting with the necessary detail. Even if we had interviews with every executive committee member, there would be reason to question if, with time to consider the outcomes and reactions, motives and stories have changed since the time of the vote. Even after committee member Chuck Blazer tried to confirm he voted for the United States, some questioned whether he was telling the truth.
Second (and more to the point), people likely to be enraged by this quasi-revelation are likely people who already believed FIFA is run by Swiss Sopranos, England and the United States should form their own governing body (presumably playing two nation Word Cups), and nothing like this has ever happened before, be it in FIFA or any other organization that engages in political processes as a means of making decisions. It makes it much easier to stomach U.S. Soccer losing to Qatar if it's a product of an irrational process.
That the process may actually be irrational is what will keep this story alive for 11 more years. Are you ready for it? Over a decade of brooding? The festering discontent of false expectations, survived by a constant stream of revelations, stoking sentiment set to be projected onto each hint of ill-preparedness we hear from Qatar between now and 2022?
Last month, it was indignation about a January World Cup (FIFA should have to revote!) This month, it's vote trading. What ever angle comes with March's iteration of this meme, I'm sure it will get mention in this space.
Just let this one go, Sepp. You want this story to die. And I say this as somebody that's on your side. In no way to do I think all the paranoid indignation is justified, but you're not winning any battles by calling England "bad losers" for their reaction to last week's news.
That's when it was announced that Russia and Qatar would hold the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, announcements that sparked a sea of scrutiny from England and the United States. Today in the Guardian, where the FIFA leader labels England "bad losers," Blatter has his say:
"To be honest, I was surprised by all the English complaining after the defeat. England, of all people, the motherland of fairplay ideas," Blatter told Swiss weekly magazine Weltwoche.
"Now some of them are showing themselves to be bad losers. You can't come afterwards and say so and so promised to vote for England. The results are known. The outcome came out clearly."
Blatter's referring to the contention that England was promised more than the two votes they got, a total that sent them crashing out of the process on the first of three ballots. In that regard, Blatter's are a surprising and welcome note of sanity. Just because one or more Executive Committee members might have lied to Prince William and David Beckham doesn't mean that process is corrupt. It just means the ExCo has little reverence for royalty, be it the political or footballing kind.
But just because Blatter might be right doesn't mean it's a good idea to bring this up. Right now, England and its media are the kid who had a bad Christmas. In a few months they'll forget they got Battleship instead of a bike (kids do still want bicycles, right?). But if you keep reminding them they didn't get their bike? Calling them babies for complaining about it? That's just emotional bullying. Sepp, you need to let this go.
Instead, the FIFA president piled on:
"I really sense in some reactions a bit of the arrogance of the western world of Christian background. Some simply can't bear it if others get a chance for a change.
"What can be wrong if we start football in regions where this sport demonstrates a potential which goes far beyond sport?" he said.
In the abstract, nothing (to answer his question). His "western world of Christian background" can complain all they want, but FIFA did what it said it was going to. Long ago, Blatter made it clear that his legacy as would be about taking the game to new places. And what happened last Thursday? FIFA delivered, the product of a populist platform that keeps Blatter in his presidency despite scorn from the England-language press.
Thursday's decisions taught us a lot about potential corruption, FIFA's vision of the footballing world, and the true standards by which World Cup bids are measured. That those standards were so different than what the England-language media portrayed is the subtext this flawed rhetorical uprising.
That is not to say good things can't come from these sour grapes. Blatter himself admitted that FIFA needs to improve its image:
Blatter rejected the corruption allegations and said he was being targeted by anti-Fifa journalists: "There is no systematic corruption in Fifa. That is nonsense. We are financially clean and clear."
But Blatter said Fifa could not act as if nothing had happened, adding he wanted to set up a taskforce to look into compliance issues, without giving details.
"We need to improve our image. We also need to clarify some things within Fifa."
Corruption watch dogs will hate to acknowledge it, but Blatter seems right. Corruption is certainly more prevalent than soccer fans would like - more prevalent than Blatter would like - but there is no evidence that it's systematic. That is an important distinction.
As this process has highlighted, FIFA is not a monolithic entity. Because Blatter has been a champion of emerging soccer cultures, some people that have been brought into the process have more to gain from taking a payday than, say, Chuck Blazer would. It's no coincidence that the Times of London's sting caught a Nigerian official, somebody who was trying to get money to build facilities in his home country. It's no coincidence that people are highlighting Qatar's donations to a mismanaged Argentine Football Association.
A more dispersed process means more, potentially vulnerable, points to pinch. If the process was still a vote of FIFA's entire membership, the block created by Europe's numbers might alleviate some of these problems. Then again, Europe is not without its own corruption, as the match-fixing illuminated by Declan Hill shows. Corruption in. Corruption out. Corruption back in.
The AFA money and the Nigeria bribe have little to do with each other, and while they illuminate the possibility of a culture of corruption, the incidences are far from conclusive. More readily, they exhibit the same problems inherent in any political process: Different people have different motivations, and some of those motivations are off kilter.
FIFA should spend the next eight years identifying the problems of 2010 and leveling the playing field for 2018, but that won't change the fact that the World Cup is going to neither England nor the United States. That won't change the fact that nobody can show it would have otherwise gone to those nations, where the process more transparent.
If Blatter is at all ambivalent about the virtues of a more open process, he should realize sour grapes are difficult to nurture once you've run out of excuses, but I'm getting off-tracked. Sepp: Keep your mouth shut on this one. You're not doing yourself any good. You're not doing FIFA any good. You're not doing England any good by picking at this wound. For a while, just go away.
For the first time ever, it took four rounds of voting to decide a World Cup host. When the process had played itself out, Qatar became the most unlikely World Cup host in the history of the event. Surprisingly, they were ahead from the first ballot.
When FIFA took it's first poll, Qatar received 11 of the 12 votes needed to win. The next highest vote-getter was four: South Korea. Japan and the United States each got three, and the second-favorite going into the day, Australia, was eliminated with a single vote. Australia, a supposed dark horse, was gone on the first ballot.
Tracking the Voting
The longest voting session in history was three rounds, prior to today. Balloting for the 2022 World Cup wasn't decided until the vote was down to two bids, a process that went four rounds. Ultimately, the bid that nearly won it on the first ballot was the clear winner.
But stop and consider those totals for a moment. The United States and Australia - hailed by most as the two most ready nations - combined to get as much support as South Korea, a bid that was supposed to be an also-ran. Once we read that, everything we knew about the bidding process and the strength of the proposals goes out the window. Clearly, the information the press has been feeding us over the last two years is way off base. The U.S. isn't a favorite. The U.S. barely makes the second ballot.
Thankfully, on that second ballot, Qatar doesn't pick up the vote it needs to win. In fact, it loses a vote, as does Japan, while the United States picks up two. How does this happen? Did somebody change their mind on a proposal after round one? Hardly. Those oddities are likely the result of some type of deal that got Japan and Qatar votes for only one one round. Perhaps votes exchanged in the 2018 balloting allowed Qatar to make a one-round push for the quick knock-out while Japan tried to survive to the less predictable later rounds.
Some will read that and say "this process is corrupt. People should be voting on the merits of the bid." Yes, and that would make World Cup voting the one place in the world where some kind of altruistic letter of the law is followed. If you want to argue that people should be respecting the ideals of the process, that's fine. Know you're talking about a hypothetical world that's never existed, a place where every item sells for exactly what it's worth and I can dunk a basketball while being applauded by Heidi Klum. Please, please - take me there.
In the world we live in, Japan was eliminated in round two. Surprisingly, neither of their two votes went to South Korea. One went to Qatar and the other want to the U.S., meaning the United States needed to get every single one of Korea's five orphaned votes just to tie Qatar in round four.
That's how much Qatar had going for them the once the voting started. Everything would have had to break against them in order for them to lose. Whatever the merits of their proposal - a proposal some absolutely loved by some, abhorred by others - they clearly put in their work. They lapped a field that saw none of the other proposals get more the four votes in round one. It was a slaughter. Were it not for the quantity of bids, everybody else would have been mercy-ruled.
Bag on the Qataris if you want, but the real question that the Untied States and Australia should ask is "what went wrong?" Qatar wasn't Barcelona today, but the U.S. and Australia were practically Real Madrid. They got worked, and they need to figure out what the hell happened.
The stateside fall-out from this morning's decision continues, with the latest rebuke coming from on high. President Barack Obama called FIFA's decision "wrong" when speaking to reporters between meetings. The President was featured in the United States' presentation video but was not on hand this week's festivities.
Former President Bill Clinton had played a major role in U.S. Soccer's bid, being involved in yesterday's presentation to FIFA's executive committee. President Obama's contributions came in video form, telling the committee, "Here in America passion for football burns stronger than ever. If we are successful we will make the world proud. The game is in us. I hope to have the chance to welcome all of you in 2022."
Instead, the right to host the tournament went to Qatar, and while it's unclear what President Obama was specifically referring to when he said "wrong," a better term to describe the their bid may be "different." A meme that grew throughout the bidding process was the preparedness had precedence. That's what the English-speaking world felt the United States and England the "right" choices.
The decisions went the other way, rebuking preparedness. In light of two less-prepared nations being chosen to host the 2010 and 2014 tournaments (South Africa and Brazil, respectively), a definition of right and wrong built around present day preparedness might itself be wrong. Qatar was the least prepared of the 2022 bidders. Clearly, that was of little import.
We'll hear more people claim the Qatar decision is wrong, but would help if each person articulated their standard. How their definition compares to FIFA's may highlight the disconnect.
Late Thursday afternoon in Zurich, Switzerland, Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA, stepped to the podium and announced that Qatar had won the right to host the 2022 World Cup. This meant that the bids from Australia, Japan, Korea, and more importantly, the United States, had failed.
While the odds for the U.S. to win the 2022 event were dropping Thursday, America, with its soccer-hungry fans (really: only host country South Africa bought more tickets to this past summer's World Cup) and a network of soccer-ready stadiums in place (not to mention an ample amount of hotels) was still the favorite. Twenty-eight years between hosting duties is plenty of time, and more than ever, the United States was ready to be the center stage of the soccer world.
Which is why it was so surprising when Blatter read "Qatar." Don Garber, commissioner of MLS, the United States' soccer league that continues to gain international respect every year, spoke for many when he said, "I'm shocked."
It came down to the final round of voting, but that's where Qatar edged the U.S., 14-8. And really, it wasn't even that close: Qatar earned 11 votes in the first round (one shy of a win) compared to United States' three.
So what happened? If you ask Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl, the world was shown "the biggest indictment possible that FIFA is not a clean organization."
The message here is that petrodollars talk. For an outfit that likes to thump its chest and claim that it is not corrupt (Trust us, says FIFA president Sepp Blatter), having two oil-wealthy winners is the clearest message possible that FIFA needs a complete overhaul in its leadership and organization. Russia had a pretty good case for being chosen, but Qatar (which was funded heavily by its government and bought the support of celebrity endorsers) didnt make a lot of sense in the first place.
Until we get that "overhaul," however, we're left with Brazil 2014, Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. Things could be worse, obviously (and at the very least, we get to witness the spectacle that will be Qatar, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, putting on the world's biggest sporting event, complete with stadiums that will shame even Jerry Jones' wildest dreams -- they're planning an island stadium, people!).
As for the U.S., they're left wondering what they could have done differently, and left looking ahead to 2026.
It was one of the strangest hosting proposals ever. Air conditioned stadiums. A country with a population roughly the size of Phoenix, Arizona. An emirate with only one major city. Qatar overcame those obstacles as well as strong opposition of the United States and Russia to win FIFA's approval to host the 2022 World Cup.
The shocking announcement affirms FIFA President Sepp Blatter's intent to take the world's biggest sporting event to new places. Speaking after the Qatari delegation thanked the executive committee for their support, Blatter spoke of the novelty of having Russia, announced hosts of the 2018 tournament, and Qatar as World Cup sites. Neither have previously hosted the World Cup.
Qatar, like Russia, faces significant infrastructure issues, though the biggest concern will be environmental. The Qatari delegation spent most of their time leading into today's vote convincing committee members that summer heat on the Arabian Peninsula (where temperatures could reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit), will not be an issue. Air condition stadiums designed to lower the temperature of the play surface were proposed.
While Australia, Japan, and South Korea were also rejected with the Qatar announcement, the United States will be the most disappointed. U.S. Soccer and the proposal it put forth had been seen as the favorites, but a late surge of confidence in the Qatar bid overshadowed the efforts of USSF President Sunil Gulati and former President of the United States Bill Clinton, who carries a high profile in the days before the announcement.
The Russia and Qatar announcements have already led to speculation of FIFA's motives, with England and the United States viewed as the most ready of the 2018 and 2022 bidders. However, as was the case with South Africa's hosting the 2010 tournament, FIFA has again shown a strong commitment to taking soccer to new locations across the globe.
Russia has won the rights to hoost the 2018 World Cup, it was announced moments ago. Confirming speculation that had leaked out in the minutes before FIFA President Sepp Blatter's announcement, Russia beat out England, Spain-Portugal, and Netherlands-Belgium to win the rights to host it's first World Cup.
Russia has been a slight favorite to win the hosting rights until the last few days. Then, England's bid had surged back into contention, while some reports had seen Spain-Portugal's bid as emboldened. Instead, what had been suspected over the last year ends up playing out, with the Russians winning the rights to hold the world's biggest sporting event.
In accepted the honor, Russian representatives thanked the crowd in Zurich for entrusting the tournament to the first time host. Russia still faces significant infrastructure challenges, needing improvements with stadia, transportation, and hospitality. However, their current readiness was seen as a secondary issue to taking the tournament to a new part of the world, something that has always been one of Blatter's stated goals.
Sepp Blatter, in his final remarks congratulating Russia, expressed hopes that the World Cup will help organize soccer in that region of the world.
Oliver Kay of The Times of London, on the ground in Switzerland, has tweeting speculation bolstering reports that Russia may have won World Cup 2018. According to Kay, unconfirmed reports around FIFA headquarters hold England was eliminated on the first ballot:
Caveat, speculation, not indicative, blah, blah, blah. We're just collecting the smoke here, people, and everything we're seeing is pointing to one of two things. There could be an elaborate rouse on FIFA's part, a huge practical joke meant to dupe the English-speaking world, one that would antagonize a huge nation with unaccounted-for nukes. Or, Russia could be announced as the winner of the World Cup 2018 hosting rights. You tell me where we should go with this.
For what it's worth, Oliver Kay isn't the only journo to tweet such speculum. Most of the particulars on the ground in Switzerland are hearing Russia and Qatar are the winners. The announcement hasn't come, and this could be a number of reporters tweeted to an English speaking world who are reading tea leaves with excessive pessimism.
It could also be noting the fire's smoke. Gulp.
The announcement was scheduled to start five minutes ago, but after news that we would have a significant delaycomes word that reporters are being led into the auditorium in Zurich. FIFA is preparing to announce the winners of the hosting rights for World Cup 2018 and World Cup 2022:
That's the good news. The bad news for those supporting the England and United States proposals: Early speculation holds neither won their bids.
A study from Russian paper Izvestia claims committee voting records points to a tied vote for the 2018 Cup, with Sepp Blatter's preference for a Russian World Cup potentially swaying the choice.
Thin, I know, and perhaps this is only a little less so, a tweet from Tom Dart (The Times of London) saying Sky Sports (a fellow England-based media outlet) has unconfirmed reports that Qatar has won 2022:
It's all in good fun until it becomes official, but perhaps the same people informing Sky Sports also got word to the money men. That would explain Qatar's surge to William Hill favorites.
How is the United States losing ground? They probably aren't, but don't tell that to William Hill. Or, more readily, don't tell that to the people betting at William Hill, as the United States' odds have again dropped, per their latest figures. Qatar remains the favorite, while Australia is now second favorite.
Perhaps this is because of the delay in the announcement. Coming into today, there was a school of thought that England and the United States' best chances were with a single ballot win. Once you move on to second and third ballots, the U.S. and England have less of a chance of picking up orphaned votes, with those committee members likely to cast their lot with other, perhaps more sentimental, choices.
Maybe that explains why U.S. odds, better than even at the weekend, fell to 5/2 this morning and now stand at 11/4. Australia remains at 5/2, as it was this morning, while Qatar is also static at 4/6.
Again, these odds mean nothing save gamblers are impulsive and fickle and ... OK, I'm putting some money on the States, at this point. That number's just too good.
World Cup 2022 Odds
4/6 - Qatar
5/2 - Australia
11/4 - United States
33/1 - Japan
40/1 - South Korea
The announcement from FIFA as to which countries will be hosting the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, originally scheduled for around 10 A.M. ET, has been delayed. Which just gives you more time to figure out where to watch it.
The announcement is being broadcast live all around the world, and chances are you get at least one of the channels:
But if you are unable to operate you television, or more likely, are stuck at work Thursday morning, FIFA's official website will also offer a live-stream of the announcement. You can watch it live by clicking right here (and based on Wednesday's bid presentations, the quality of their media player is pretty good).
As it stands now, England is the heavy favorite to land the 2018 Cup, while Qatar is a small favorite to edge out the United Stats for the 2022 bid. Qatar would be the first Arab country to host a World Cup.
BBC news correspondent James Pearce has just learned that today's announcement of World Cup 2018 and World Cup 2022 hosts is likely to be delayed. Originally scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Eastern, Pearce relays word from a FIFA official that voting is taking longer than anticipated:
In a clumsy metaphor, I previously alluded to the FIFA balloting as akin to picking a Pope, and while I bemoaned the lack of smoke signals, FIFA's voting goes until it's done. There's no time limit, though there is a limit on rounds. With each iteration of the voting, the least supported bid is eliminated from the process. Voting stops when a majority is achieved, meaning the 2018 voting could have anywhere from one to three rounds. With an extra entrant, 2022 voting could go four rounds.
So what does the delay mean? More rounds, silly. These votes always looked like they'd be close. James Pearce's tweet tells us that reality's matching perception.
We just got you up-to-date on the latest World Cup 2022 odds. Now about an hour away from the first announcements, let's take a look at the World Cup 2018 odds, though they come with a caveat: Gamblers are crazy.
This weekend, Russia as a better-than-even money favorite at William Hill, a Britian-based bookmaker. Now, England has stormed ahead on the backs of ... well, I would assume David Beckham's charm and Vladimir Putin not showing up in Zurich. It's hard to believe an endeavor the size of the 2018 World Cup would be decided on such things, but apparently there was a large block of money hovering, waiting for those slivers of news.
And that may be why England is now going off at 8/13, a prohibitive favorite. Russia has fallen all the way to 2/1, second favorites ahead of Spain/Portugal, listed at 5/1. That seems like a good bet, considering we've just heard about the Spaniards' confidence. The Netherlands/Belgium bid is getting 40/1 odds, but there's no way that proposal has a 2.5 percent chance of winning.
Again, disclaimer: This is all fun and games. This has no bearing on anything that's going on in Zurich. Considering it an indication of consumer confidence, though the real consumers today are the executive committee members.
World Cup 2018 Odds
8/13 - England
2/1 - Russia
5/1 - Spain
40/1 - Netherland/Belgium
The Spain-Portugal bid has nine votes, if you're to believe Spanish representatives. More readily, the Spain-Portugal bid has nine votes, if you're to believe a Spain-based Englishman's reporting, though in fairness, Sid Lowe is the standard. If he says Spain feels they've got nine, then they feel they've got nine:
Those nine votes are believed to be Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Qatar, Paraguay, and Turkey's, in addition to their own. Twelve votes are needed to secure the bid.
How does Spain make up the difference? If they have nine, there's a path to doing so. The first round of voting will almost certainly eliminate the Netherlands-Belgium bid, and if they truly have nine (perhaps more, if they can pick up some of the Netherlands-Belgium support), they will at least survive to a third round, by which time one of Russia or England will be eliminated.
At that point, it comes down to where the orphaned votes fall. If Russia or England are eliminated, it's difficult to imagine the Spain-backed bid not picking up three more votes.
Wait - Sid Lowe is a BlackBerry guy? I would have bet iPhone.
If you want odds on soccer, go to William Hill, says the guy who doesn't gamble. But they are reputable enough, and according to their figures, the United States is losing the confidence of the betters. Whereas the Britain-based betting house had the U.S. as 4/5 favorites to win the World Cup 2022 bid this weekend, the United States are now listed at 5/2, even as second-favorites with Australia.
Qatar has emerged as a better than even money favorite. Being 4/6 to win doesn't mean much as far as the actual voting, being conducted as I type, is concerned. At worst, it's an indication of a decreased (if relative) confidence in the States' chances. At worse, it's a hint that something's up: Knowing people who make money off these types of things putting their money where their knowledge lies.
For our money, nothing except these meaningless odds have changed since this weekend. Perhaps that's also is why I'm not allowed direct access to SB Nation money (amongst other reasons).
Australia, like the United States, is going off at 5/2, but just to highlight the lunacy of these wagers, consider the odds on Japan and South Korea. Japan is 33/1 and South Korea is 40/1, but there is no way their real chances of winning this vote is two-and-a-half or three percent. Those bets are drop boxes at a bank you don't use.
Not that the U.S. and Qatar odds make much more sense. Qatar may legitimately be the favorite. Australia may still find a way to get World Cup 2022, but has that much changed since this weekend, when the U.S. was better than even money? No.
4/6 - Qatar
5/2 - United States
5/2 - Australia
33/1 - Japan
40/1 - South Korea
Russia has just finished their presentation, being the final of the 2018 aspirants to make their case to the FIFA Executive Committee. While it included a jibe at the dry (read: boring) Spain/Portugal presentation, the Russians missed too many opportunities to highlight their ability to keep state department secrets. I guess they're not as mad about the whole WikiLeaks thing as they're letting on.
The committee now retires to start the voting. We wait to judge the smoke. If it's white, the voting continues. It's red, white and blue, that means the U.S., if it's the 2022 voting. Else, it's Russia. Who'd have ever thought we'd have that in common? The decisions are expected to be announced at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time.
Here how the voting works. For both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, each Executive Committee member will vote for one of the proposals. Twelve votes are required for a proposal to win. If a round of voting passes without a proposal getting that majority, the least supported bid will be eliminated and another round of voting commences. If the final round of voting ends in a tie, FIFA President Sepp Blatter will cast the deciding vote.
While voting to decide the last World Cup host took only one round, it is likely each of the 2018 and 2022 hosts will need more than one round to be identified. Back in 2004, 2010 host South Africa was chosen on the first ballot by a 14-10 margin over Morocco (Egypt got no votes), But that ballot bears few similarities to today's, given South Africa had narrowly and controversially lost the 2006 World Cup's vote four years earlier. For that Cup, balloting took three rounds to chose Germany, who won 12-11 on a third ballot when one FIFA member, thought to likely to vote for South Africa, abstained.
That vote, which took place in July 2000, is the best analog for today's ballots. Where the 2014 ballot saw Brazil run unopposed in a South America-only race (and the 2010 selection was limited to African nations), today's votes will be more competitive. The 2018 selections have been narrowed to a European field, both the presence of three competitive bids makes two-to-three ballots probable. The 2022 ballot sees one CONCACAF proposal (the United States') competing with four Asian bids.
The United States is still considered the favorite for that Cup, though Japan's 3D heavy presentation has opened some eyes. But the Japanese are considered a fourth favorite, at best, in large part because they were co-hosts for the 2002 tournament. South Korea, who shared hosting rights in 2002, are even longer shots. The States' chief competition is Qatar, whose main virtue is Sepp Blatter's understood intent to take soccer to new places. Should he take it to the Arabian Peninsula, the tournament will have to deal with unprecedented heat issues, one of the reasons why Australia has emerged as many's non-U.S. choice.
This morning the 2018 aspirants made their case to the executive committee. That field's comprised of a Netherlands-Belgium joint-bid, a similar proposal from Spain-Portugal, England's much discussed candidacy, as well as Russia, the acknowledged favorite. The Netherlands-Belgium presentation came first, a presentation leaning heavily on Dutch soccer iconography and the idea of a greener World Cup (two million bicycles to be made available). The Spain-Portugal presentation, said to be a bit boring, was dignitary-heavy, emphasizing their proposal has support from all confederations (better phrased as "some support"). England's presentation featured the trifecta of Prince William, David Cameron, and David Beckham, with a video that used the power of Premier League celebrities like Alex Ferguson. The final presentation, Russia's, was "dream" themed, talking about what the tournament would mean to a country that's never hosted the tournament.
Early reviews hint England's presentation was today's most convincing. The good reviews also include an allusion to it not mattering. Undoubtedly, committee members knew where they were voting before these final arguments began.
Those members have now retired to their chimney'd room. Consultants from the Vatican are advising on the colored smoke. The proceedings have begun, and in two-and-a-half hours (at 10 a.m. Eastern) we'll know where the next two Cups are going. While I love the idea of smoke signals rising from the Zurich compound, telling the world of the committee's choice, word is they're going to straight out tell us.
Again, such a missed opportunity.
On Thursday morning in Zurich, Switzerland, the 22 members of the FIFA executive committee will vote on the hosts of the 2022 World Cup so when the five bidding countries took to the stage on Wednesday, it was the final chance for each bid to impress and gather votes. The United States took the opportunity to emphasize the earning power of a World Cup hosted in U.S., the country's diversity and how prepared the country's infrastructure is for the mega-event, but the scene stealers for the U.S. came with star power in the form of Morgan Freeman, former President Bill Clinton and a taped message from President Barack Obama.
The United States opened their presentation with a video, followed by a speech from Freeman, who is a member of the U.S. bid committee, who emphasized the country's diversity. Freeman spoke of his love of the United States and stated that the United States, "is the most diverse nation on earth...lots of Americans, one America." He also appropriately quoted Nelson Mandela, considering that Freeman played Mandela in the movie "Invictus," in saying that, "sport has the power to change the world."
Freeman's emphasis on diversity would continue throughout the presentation as President Obama spoke on tape and United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati spoke, as well as during Landon Donovan's appearance. Most of all, the theme of diversity and the impact that a United States hosted World Cup could have on the world was hammered home by Clinton, who was also not shy about reminding voters about the time he spent with them at this summer's World Cup in South Africa.
The contingent of Americans in Zurich for the presentation and vote also included Mia Hamm, who received acknowledgment from FIFA President Sepp Blatter before the United States' presentation. It was an additional point in the bid's push for diversity that the bid hopes will override the concerns of some who believe that 2022 is too soon for the U.S. to host a World Cup after doing so in 1994.
Also bidding to host the 2022 World Cup are Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea. Japan and South Korea hosted the 2002 World Cup and many believe that both stand no chance to be named hosts of the 2022 edition because it would be too soon for either to host a second time. Australia has a technically sound bid that appeases most of FIFA's requirements and being a sports mad country that has never hosted a World Cup before, their bid is considered one of the better ones with a legitimate chance of winning.
The real wild card in the bidding is Qatar, who don't meet many of the requirements set forth by FIFA, but have managed to remain a contender because of a well-played political game that may or may not include tactics related to the recent investigations into FIFA corruption. Revolutionary technology has made hosting a World Cup in the Middle Eastern desert a possibility, but some of that technology is untested and has raised eyebrows. The money behind the Qatari bid is unmatched though and completely new stadiums and venues would make for a sparkling tournament visually. Whatever the tactics, Qatar is a legitimate contender to host the 2022 World Cup and some bookies have even put them as the favorites to win Thursday's vote
After two years of bidding, the United States enters Thursday's voting as the favorite to land the 2022 World Cup. Gulati repeatedly emphasized the financial benefits of a World Cup in the U.S., which is to be expected considering that he is an economics professor at Columbia and the staggering numbers the bid has put forth.
Gulati stated that over 100 million people in the United States watched the 2010 World Cup, but they project that over 200 million would watch should the U.S. host in 2022. Those statistics were followed by the amount that the U.S. pays in television rights fees for the World Cup already, $212 million, and how much NBC pays for the rights to the Olympics, which is four times that amount. Gulati stated that with the continued growth of the game in the U.S., highlighted by another World Cup, the television rights fees could match that of the Olympics.
Instead of trying to hide the fact that they hosted the 1994 World Cup, the U.S. emphasized the 1994 event and its success. Donovan shared how attending a match in 1994 inspired him to be a professional player and how that tournament remains the highest attended World Cup ever. With an average stadium capacity of 76,000 put forth in the bid, the U.S. claims that they will break the attendance records they set in 1994 and set a new standard for successful World Cups.
The 2010 World Cup, hosted by South Africa, generated $3.4 billion, but with a projected average attendance of 5,000,000, increased rights fees and sponsorship revenue, Gulati projected record profits for FIFA from a U.S. World Cup.
In the end, Clinton closed the presentation with compliments for FIFA, the game of soccer and once again, an emphasis on U.S. diversity. The former President, who is the bid's Honorary Chairman, had this to say:
"The unifying power of this game to address the major challenges of the 21st-century world, with all of its interdependence, to reduce its inequalities and instabilities, to transform it into a place of shared responsibilities and shared opportunities is enormous. I believe the United States is perhaps in the best position to support you in fulfilling that mission."
Now, the United States will have to wait around with the other four bidders until Thursday morning, when the FIFA executive committee chooses the host for the 2022 World Cup, as well as the hosts for 2018. While some bookies have made Qatar the favorite, other bookies have slotted the U.S. as the favorite. That puts them in the same group as many writers and analysts who have pegged the U.S. as the clear favorite following two years of the bid process that will come down to 22 votes on Thursday morning.
On Wednesday, the United States sent Morgan Freeman, Landon Donovan and Bill Clinton to Zurich, Switzerland as part of its 2022 World Cup bid presentation. On Thursday, they'll find out if it was enough.
The U.S. is aiming to host the World Cup in 2022, welcoming the world's largest sporting event to America for the second time (after originally hosting in 1994). But they're up against real competition from the rest of the world as Australia, Japan, Qatar and South Korea all have bids in as well. Though it seems likely the final decision will come down to the U.S. and Qatar.
2022 World Cup Bids:
United States - Considered the favorite by many for 2022. The U.S. would not need to build any new stadiums; it can offer one of the world's most enormous economies; it's home to a now more-respected MLS; and there's the fact that Americans bought more tickets to the 2010 World Cup than any other country (besides the South African hosts). Its relatively recent hosting job in 1994 may hurt its case, however.
Qatar - If the U.S. doesn't win, then the 2022 bid will (probably) go to Qatar. The oil-rich country is seeking to become the first Arab country to host the the World Cup. However, the tiny country (pop. around 1.7 million) faces a big obstacle: the heat. The average temperature in Qatar in June and July in Qatar is 105 degrees, with the lows still at 85 (FIFA's report said it's "a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators"). But it's a dry heat?
To overcome those temperatures, Qatar is planning to build amazing temperature controlled stadiums that not only can lower the temperature by up to 68 degrees, but they'll also be designed so that after the World Cup, the stadium's upper tiers will be disassembled and donated to countries with less developed sports infrastructure.
Australia - Australia remains the only continent that has not hosted a World Cup, and 2022 may very well be their year (Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl has them at 5:2 odds). During their presentation the Aussies asked FIFA to recognize it as "the world's greatest playground" and vote Australia for 2022, the same country that hosted the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and more recently, the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Australia has 75 percent of the necessary stadiums already built, but unfortunately for them, they're part of the Asian confederation, which means if selected, FIFA would not be able to put a World Cup in China until possibly 2034 -- and FIFA wants its tournament in the world's most populous country sooner than that. Australia's time difference from soccer-crazed Europe doesn't do them any favors either.
Japan - Considered a longshot after co-hosting with South Korea so recently (2002). But, they're promising an amazingly high-tech event, complete with instant translation devices so fans from other countries can talk to each other and broadcasting the matches in "life-sized holograms."
South Korea - Considered a near-equal longshot as its 2002 co-host Japan, South Korea is also promising to including a North Korean host city.
Wednesday featured the presentations from the 2022 hopefuls. On Thursday, Belgium-Netherlands (beginning at 3 a.m. ET), Spain-Portugal, England and Russia will make their final case for the 2018 World Cup. FIFA will begin the voting process at 8 a.m. and then at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, will make the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host nations announcement.
They are still eight and 12 years away, but on Thursday, we will learn the hosts for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
The bid process, which began in January of 2009, reaches its conclusion on Wednesday in Zurich, Switzerland, when hopeful countries from around the world make their final presentations in hopes of convincing the FIFA Executive Committee to vote for their bid to become a host for the world's biggest sporting event.
There are a total of 11 countries making nine bids for the two tournaments (Belgium and Netherlands have submitted a joint-bid, as did Portugal and Spain, both for 2018). Mexico withdrew its bid in 2009, and Indonesia's bid was rejected by FIFA.
Because Qatar and South Korea only submitted bids for 2022, and Japan, Australia and the United States withdrew their 2018 bids, it means that the 2018 World Cup will be played in a European country.
2018 World Cup Bids:
England - After losing out on the 2006 World Cup to Germany, England is trying yet again to host their first tournament since 1966 (which just so happens to be the only time The Three Lions hoisted the trophy). This is the heavy favorite to win the 2018 bid, especially after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin decided not to attend Wednesday's presentation, citing "unscrupulous competition" and "filth and compromising material" -- he is likely referring to reports of alleged collusion between Spain-Portugal and Qatar. England's already existing soccer stadiums give it a leg-up on its competitors.
Portugal and Spain - Portugal, which hosted the 2004 European Championships, and Spain, host of the 1964 European Championships and the 1982 World Cup, decided to join their efforts for a 2018 bid. If selected (they're 5:1 favorites according to World Cup Odds, behind England at 2:1), they'd be just the second joint-hosts after Japan and South Korea in 2002. A majority of the matches would be held in Spain, with Portugal likely contributing just three venues to Spain's nine (assuming FIFA's allocation of 12 total stadiums).
Russia - Russia's bid took a hit when Vladimir Putin, who had previously ordered Vitaly Mutko, the Minister of Sports, to "prepare a bid for Russia to hold the 2018 World Cup," decided not to attend the country's bid presentation on Wednesday in Zurich. But still: the country is reportedly ready to spend $10 billion. Fourteen cities are part of the proposal, divided into five clusters, centered around St. Petersburg, Moscow, Sochi (host of the 2014 Winter Olympics) and Yekaterinburg.
Belgium and Netherlands - The "other" joint effort bidding on the 2018 World Cup, combines one of the world's strongest soccer powers with ... Belgium. The longshot of longshots at 50:1 odds.
Following Wednesday's presentation, FIFA Executive Committee will vote and announce both the 2018 and 2022 hosts on Thursday, Dec. 2.
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