Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

Run that past me again?!?

Posted by John Beech on December 3, 2010

As someone whose heart wanted England to get the 2018 World Cup, but whose head didn’t (in a nutshell, and amongst a number of reasons, we can’t afford it) I naturally had mixed feelings about our failure to win today.  ‘Failure to win’ is of course a massive understatement.  We presumably only attracted one vote from the other 21 FIFA Exco members.

FIFA, not known for its transparency, provides few metrics in its evaluation reports (available here).  They do however give a range of ratings related to risk.  Perhaps we had submitted a bid that was too risky.  Well, have a look for yourself:

Government documents
Government guarantees Low risk Medium risk Low risk Low risk Low risk
Contractual documents
Hosting agreement Low risk Low risk Low risk Low risk Low risk
Host city arrangements Low risk Medium risk Low risk Low risk Low risk
Stadium agreements Low risk Medium risk Low risk Low risk Low risk
Training city agreements Low risk Medium risk Low risk Low risk Medium risk
Confirmation agreements Low risk Low risk Low risk Low risk Low risk
Overall legal risks Low risk Medium risk Low risk Low risk Low risk
Stadium construction Low risk Low risk Low risk Medium risk Medium risk
Stadium operations Medium risk Medium risk Medium risk Medium risk Medium risk
Team facilities Low risk Low risk Medium risk Low risk High risk
Competition-related events Low risk Low risk Low risk Low risk Low risk
Airports and international connections Low risk Low risk Low risk High risk risk Medium risk
Ground transport Low risk Low risk Low risk Medium risk Medium risk
Host city transport Low risk Low risk Low risk Low risk Medium risk
General accommodation Medium risk Medium risk Low risk Medium risk Medium risk
International Broadcast Centre Low risk Low risk Low risk Low risk Medium risk
Round 1 2 4 7 9 11
Round 2 2 7 13 10
Round 3 11
Round 4 14

The rating of ‘High risk’ occurs only three times in all the ratings for 2018 and 2022 contenders – twice for Qatar and once for Russia.

It would seem that, far from being risk averse, the FIFA Exco members favoured risky bids!

Of course, I’m falling into that old trap of assuming that they behaved and voted in a rational way.

So, if it wasn’t content that wooed them, perhaps it might have been style.  No metrics here, but my impression was that we had come to the party with just the right blend of banalities and photogenic children that had worked so well in Singapore.  Certainly our effort was no more nor less vomit-inducing than the oppositions’.  Certainly it was no less contrived.

Inevitably we come back to the process of selection as the root cause of England’s failure.  We didn’t jump through the right hoops.  We didn’t pound the ground or press the flesh hard enough.  We trusted Jack Warner.  We were naïve.  The core question is which of those are things we should not be happy with.

As we wake up the next morning, sadly free of the anticipated hangover, criticism continues to focus on the role of our media.  It was Panorama and The Sunday Times wot dunnit.  Whether it was or wasn’t will be endlessly debated, but that misses the point.  Having a free press with a healthy body of investigative journalists who are happy to point out that the emperor has no clothes is something we should celebrate rather than lament surely, even if we don’t like the outcomes.  There is a need to distinguish between the process of selection and the outcomes of that process.

As for the outcomes, there could have been (from all the countries in the world) far worse choices than Russia.  Have a look at this clip of their plans for stadiums.  Mind you, it would hard to find a less appropriate choice than Qatar to be the host of football’s crowning glory.  I’m sure many a fellow academic is already planning their research on the socio-cultural impact of 2022 on Qatar.  I suspect that either fans will stay way (I would recommend Amnesty Internationals’ latest report on Qatar before you book your flights) or Qatar will unleash a lot of unwelcome behaviour in its hotels, which will test their public relations arm to the limits.

As for the media, there are in fact examples of both excellent and diabolical commentary.  Topping my list of excellent commentary at the moment is Declan Hill’s Stumped, Unanswered Questions and an Organization with a Credibility Death-Wish, closely followed by David Conn’s contribution, Jens Sejer Andersen’s contribution, Paul Kelso’s contribution and Ian King’s reflections over at TwoHundredPerCent. Dishonorable mentions must go to the Daily Mail, and to an amazing attack on the ‘eight villains of the piece‘ by the Guardian, although the last of these appears to have been removed from their website.

If there is any criticism to be made of our media, it is that they raised our expectations too high.  The strength of our bid technically may well have encouraged them to do so, but they didn’t seem to have noticed that the decision is made not by a committee of wise and rational men, but rather by a group of malleable football D-listers.  The evidence was there, thanks to journalists like Andrew Jennings, but was perhaps not given the prominence in mainstream media over the years that it deserved.


8 Responses to “Run that past me again?!?”

  1. We got what we deserved, a humiliation of a bid IMHO. Rule one of lobbying, the people you send to do it MUST recognise when they are been given polite but useless encouragement. Beckham and Windsor (and I have my doubts about Cameron)have no concept of that skill never mind an ability to recognise it.

    This country can be a mare at times, instead of shouting at others perhaps the finger should be pointed at that bloated organisation in the pocket of the greedy PL, the FA!

  2. John Beech said

    Some interesting further metrics here, from a McKinsey report on the potential financial impact for each host bidder. For the 2018 counties, England came out top, and Russia bottom. For 2022, the USA had the highest potential economic impact, Qatar the worst bar Australia.

    The report had been sent to all 22 FIFA Exco members.

  3. Let’s remember that it’s really Sepp Blatter’s decision. I believe that under the current FIFA management and using the current voting system, the WC will continue to go to these more exciting corners of the earth, something Blatter has made clear he is keen on. Continental rotation will not be used again, meaning that there will probably be even more bids for each WC. Come 2030, countries such as Argentina may have found themselves financially capable of hosting a tournament, and you can imagine how much FIFA would love them to do it. All in all, it doesn’t look great for an England WC in our lifetimes!

    • John Beech said

      With respect to taking the WC to exciting corners of the earth and rotation, it’s perhaps worth pointing out that if every country in the world took a turn at hosting it, England’s next turn would be due around 2766 (depending on how many countries appear and disappear in the next (roughly 200) x 4 years! Oh no, slightly later than that, as FIFA would have to give it to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland too, unless of course they wise up to this over-representation at some point over the next eight centuries.

      [Please – I’m making a general point, although pedants may wish to tweak the 2766 figure]

  4. John Beech said

    Some interesting speculation on the business implications (financial ‘winners’ and ‘losers’) of the selection of Russia and Qatar here.

  5. John Beech said

    Click here for an overview of how the German press sees it.

  6. Whilst England may have been hard done by, you can’t deny that Eastern Eurpoe is due a World Cup. France and Germany tournaments were on Englands door step and the game is global

  7. barto said

    First of all the FIFA choices from 2002 on have been spot on.
    Russia makes perfect sense and having one in the middle east is pretty bold by honourable. And with the success of Beijing 2008, you can bet there will be a bid for 2026 and 2030 (I know india is a huge market but i dont see it)

    2nd, football people make fun of the english infatuation with the mediocre and over, over, overhyped Beckham. listen to foreign broadcasts and you will see. (I remember one during the WC saying that their country should maybe also buy a show poodle to encourage from the bench players who cant shoot straight)
    If you cant understand that when a product becomes oversaturated, there is a backlash, you get these results.

    3, People dont like the english. Meddling in peoples lives for centuries doesnt make you beloved. Being involved in illegal wars after illegal wars makes you an unloved war criminal.
    Americans has military bases in 143 countries but it has economic might to have this glossed over.

    4. Do a better job bribing and dont be so obvious.
    Telling the whole world that you are treating FIFA delegates to a
    paid vacation at the 2012 Games is a bribe. These people like politicians dont mind bribes, they just dont like when its so blatant.
    The fact that the bribe offer was pulled back once the voters all refused to vote the english way only proves that it was nothing more than a bribe: vote for us and we will give you this.
    If you want a good table in a restaurant, you dont flash the bills an inch under teh guys nose, you fold it in the palm of your hand.

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