Archive for the ‘FIFA & PM’ Category

FIFA & the Prime Minister (PM)

Lundi, décembre 6th, 2010

One wonders what the Prime Minister (and indeed Prince William our future King) had in mind last week in Zurich when fronting the final presentation and last minute lobbying efforts towards FIFA, in an effort to secure hosting for England of the FIFA Football World Cup in 2018. Perhaps he was trying to emulate Tony Blair who, when Prime Minister, was his usual high profile self in the final successful attempt to snatch from the favourite Paris, hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It could be said that Prince William as Honorary President of the Football Association (FA) had no choice but to be there in what now seems in retrospect to have already been a lost cause (or already decided in the favour of the absent Russian Prime Minister), their efforts having more impact on the media (with David Beckham also up-front) than the key FIFA decision makers who remained unconvinced, despite making suitably polite noises of encouragement.
It is not in the job description of either the PM or Prince William to be commercially astute or masters of the art of successful lobbying and they appear ill-served and tarnished by those responsible for this bid. Certainly earlier allegations of corruption within the opaque decision-making process of FIFA carried by the Sunday Times and the BBC Panorama television programme, will not have helped but they do not explain why England only secured 2 votes out of 22 delegates and were, therefore, eliminated in the first round of votes cast. Rather it would appear that the England bid team had very few sources of effective influence and feedback on their relative chances of success due to the very limited representation by the FA within the FIFA organisation. FIFA had certainly acknowledged previously that the England bid was the safe option, given that all the stadiums were already built, matches would be well attended, football could save disaffected youths in our inner cities and the sale of the overall television rights would be guaranteed money spinners. However, other European bids were not that dissimilar (apart from that of Russia it appears) with Spain for example having not only bigger stadiums available but also better weather and food, when FIFA were looking for something more. It wasn’t then sufficient to have offered what is said by England to have been the best technical bid.
The final decision in favour of Russia, however it was arrived at, also has merit. This will be the first time that Russia, a major European power and football nation, will host the FIFA World Cup. Of course a significant number of new stadiums will have to be built as in South Africa for the last World Cup. However, these can be easily financed by the revenues from the major Russian oil and gas resources and will expand the influence of international football and open up a vast, remote continent to the outside world, still only some 20 years after the collapse of the old Soviet Union.
Having thrown his weight behind the England bid shortly after becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron had put himself into what now appears to have become a no-win situation. Whatever he might have been advised on the relative England chances of success, not to have gone would have left him open to the criticism that, in the final effort when top political support might have been critical to secure success, he was not there. However, in the harsh commercial world, the top politician (and/or royal) is normally only seen at the final signature stage of such high profile negotiations, to provide not only the important prestige and media interest in the event for the customer but also benefit to the politician, particularly when jobs back home will be created as a result of the business secured. Hence, Mr Putin the Russian Prime Minister arrived only after the final decision had been announced by FIFA in favour of Russia.