I rarely plan anything in my life more than, say, three weeks ahead. One exception to my three-weeks out rule is the World Cup. You see, for the last three World Cups, my college buddies and I have gotten together in New York to watch some matches. It started in 2002 at Paul’s house and became “a thing” four years later at Nevada Smiths. For USA-England, I was at Jack Dempsey’s (the bar they showed on the ABC broadcast).
So, I was quite upset when my planning ahead for 2022 was thwarted this week by FIFA and Qatar.
USA had bid for the 2022 World Cup to be held in our country, and we were over-whelming favorites because we hadn’t hosted since 1994; we could guarantee a ton of money; and because the plan for the next few made complete sense: South America (Brazil) 2014, Europe (England) 2018, North America (USA) 2022, Asia (China) 2026.
But in a surprising 14-8 vote, FIFA gave the World Cup 2022 to Qatar (and England got screwed out of World Cup 2018 by Russia).
The question casual observers might be asking is “How can this happen? Is FIFA corrupt or something?” And people in the know would respond “Yes, FIFA is quite corrupt, but that’s kind of what makes this surprising.”
We all know FIFA acts in a manner that earns them the most profits. Which is why the USA had it in the bag:
When USA hosted in 1994, they set the record for total attendance for a tournament that STILL haven’t been broken. Which is amazing because the tournament was 54 games in 1994 and it’s 63 games now.
Back then, no one in the US cared about soccer. We were too busy watching the OJ chase.
In 1994, we had no pro league. In 2010, 4 million people went to MLS games last year;
In 1994, not even all of the World Cup games were on TV; In 2010, all 63 WC games were on ABC/ESPN/ESPN; which paid a FIFA record rights fee for the World Cup. And the US record for “highest TV rating for a soccer game” was set THREE DIFFERENT TIMES during the 2010 World Cup.
In 1994, the US bid had to BEG stadiums to host the World Cup. Now? Cities were lobbying to be hosts for the 2022 US Bid.
More Americans bought World Cup tickets 2010 than any other country besides host South Africa.
It was a slam dunk: Give the 2022 World Cup to the US and they will make FIFA the most money of any World Cup ever.
So how did Qatar (population the same size as Dayton, Ohio) win the bid?
It’s all back-room politics. The 22-member committee (which should be 24 members, but two got kicked out for getting caught being corrupt; and this committee is comprised of the very people who chair bids for their country, by the way). Basically, Qatar — who have so much oil money that Qatar is actually fourth in the world in GDP per capita — promised all kinds of handouts and lucrative windfalls to members of the committee to get the votes, and we did not. There were allegations before the vote of a Qatar/Spain-Portugal vote-swapping deal.
I guess “vote for us and we’ll build eight new stadiums, using supplies and labor from YOUR countries; and then we’ll dismantle these modular stadiums and give them to third-world countries who can’t afford to build their own… like YOURS” will land you some votes.
Add in the desire of FIFA president Sepp Blatter to make a name for himself by granting World Cups to places (Africa; Middle East) for the first time, and you’ve got a block of people following him to curry favor down the road.
How corrupt can you be when the most lucrative World Cup ever still can’t satisfy your greed? We should put the college athletic directors from the BCS conferences in charge of our 2026 bid.