A grim sense of inevitability not far removed from one felt only six months ago accompanied the news that England had once again been unceremoniously tossed out of the running to win the World Cup. A bid campaign marred by early problems shouldn’t have been expected to fare as well as we dared to envision, but the end result, the final proposal of the England 2018 team witnessed last Thursday almost justified the delusion. They pulled out all the stops, drafting in the three most internationally recognisable faces England had to offer short of Harry Potter but although the Holy Triumvirate of David Beckham, David Cameron and Prince William brought authority and grace to the proceedings, the voting result was so bad that the entire campaign could only be considered a failure.
Russia won out, and Qatar with them, with FIFA staying consistent to its capitalist zeal for worldwide development. It seemed logical for football to come home, but it was decidedly unsurprising to see the World Cups go to those hosts that boasted the greatest potential financial gains for the FIFA bourgeoisie and their global sponsorship partners. FIFA had attracted criticism on this front only as recently as the World Cup just gone, where enterprises as small as market stalls and sole-traders were threatened with legal action for infringing on the trademarks of FIFA and its World Cup product, despite the ethos behind bringing the tournament to South Africa to promote regional development in a poverty-stricken nation. No matter what the World Cups may do for their hosts and the publicity of the game worldwide, FIFA always seem to remain the chief beneficiary.
Money and its allocation is a contentious and current issue regarding football’s governing body after the allegations of vote-selling by a Sunday Times investigation and further bribery accusations made by BBC’s Panorama. These, shook the disapproving head of the England campaign, dented the bid’s chances, but this is hardly indicative of the English feeling as a whole; England’s distrust of the FIFA power base is not limited to the BBC and Sunday Times alone. The Premier League’s televisual might makes FIFA wary, with the feeling mutual, and the majority of the English press often accuses FIFA and it’s President Sepp Blatter of retrograde thinking. The CONCACAF President Jack Warner, believed to have reneged on a promise to cast his three polling votes to the English bid was termed by Roy Keane, ever a man known for his prescience, as a “clown” over two years ago. Thus, English ill-feeling towards the dictatorial rule of FIFA is only reaffirmed by these reports and so should be celebrated, even if the timing of their releases was a little unfortunate. It’s most unfortunate however, that the England bid team condemned the reports, almost to make themselves complicit in the corruption.
This means, perhaps, that England may well be better off. A poll on the Guardian’s website asked if FIFA did England a favour, with the argument being that the FA can now concentrate on its own systemic problems and the development of the grass-roots game. This may come as little consolation to those invested in the bid, but at any rate, despite our perennial protestations about its state of affairs, English football and its politics is infinitely more progressive than that discussed amongst the patriciate within the halls of FIFA HQ in Zurich. Independence from the state is assured for a little while longer and perhaps we’ll get some answers to our questions sometime soon.