Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blatter U-turns on World Cup rotation

Blatter U-turns on World Cup rotation.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has signalled that the policy of World Cup rotation is about to be ditched.

Speaking to the BBC, Blatter admitted he would welcome England bidding for 2018, a tournament which under the present model, should be held in North or Central America.

"I am advocating we open the market," said Blatter. Back in May, he described rotation as "a milestone", speaking to FIFA delegates in Zurich, while only a month ago, announced that a final decision on rotation with regard to 2018 would come at the end of October.

With 2010 going to (South) Africa and 2014 to South America (Brazil), Europe's next turn would not have been in 2018 (CONCACAF) but in 2022, a ridiculously long wait for that continent's front runner, England.

Given the concentration of money, power, media and fan interest in European football, it seems brave, or foolhardy, to award it the tournament only once every 24 years (there are six FIFA regions).

The traditional system of alternating from Europe to South America was ripe for reform with the global spread of the game and now Japan/Korea, South Africa and the USA have all hosted, or are about to host, the sport's showpiece event.

Outside of the traditional power bases, Australia and China could both mount serious bids before long, but political worries will probably keep the Islamic world, in the form of Morocco and Egypt, excluded for the foreseeable future. The USA is also determined to host the World Cup again after the success of 1994, the the swathe of impressive new American stadia and the arrival of David Beckham to MLS. Mexico, too, is interested in hosting its third World Cup.

It is therefore, unquestionably the world's cup, yet any change to the traditional Atlantic alteration should not be so rigid as FIFA's rotation system. Four years is a long time to wait and in a continent like Europe where England, Russia, Spain, Italy and Holland & Belgium are all itching to host the World Cup, a possible wait of half a century is too long for any country.

Rotation was never fully explained - does Oceania or CONCACAF has as much right to host the World Cup as Europe? , never universally accepted by the football world and was only rushed in as a response to Germany sensationally snatching the 2006 tournament from the heavily Blatter-endorsed South Africa by the narrowest of margins (Oceania's Charles Dempsey abstained on the final vote).

Brazil had a shoe-in for 2014 because South America had not hosted the event since Argentina in 1978.

Brazil and its decrepit stadia and infrastructure is far from ready to host the World Cup however, a fact which swayed Blatter to renege on one of his favourite pet policies.

After Colombia and Argentina withdrew, the one-horse race south of the equator illuminated a flaw in the rotation system if the only contender is manifestly unable to host the month-long show.

"We are not in a very comfortable situation in South America," admitted the FIFA President.

"It is better to have three or four associations trying to get the number one competition of the world."

Rumours abound that a new system will prevent only the previous two host regions from applying, reducing the minimum wait for any country to 12 years.

It should be remembered of course that the FIFA Executive committee and not Blatter ratifies policy and CONCACAF's controversial Jack Warner for one is against any change to the status quo.

However, the days of the half-baked, hasty and unconvincing rotation system are now clearly numbered.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

1 comment:

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