Do you remember our bid for the 2018 World Cup? We were quite confident that we would get it as I remember. We had Becks and Prince William and any celebrity with a public profile greater than Basil Brush wheeled in front of the judges at every opportunity, and come decision day we were told, ‘it’s looking good’. Not quite so good, as it happened.
The tournament was awarded to Russia as they came highest in the homophobic, racist and state-sponsored doping categories, where we failed miserably.
Must try harder next time, lads.
Then, they announced the 2022 venue at the same time – FIFA probably wanted to save money on the booking costs - and this went to Qatar. Some people may have thought that Blatter was referring to ‘catarrh’ at the time as the pronunciation is quite similar and Qatar wasn't quite so prominent on the football world map in those days - nor the actual map, come to that. Apparently the tournament was destined for the States, but Platini decided to back Qatar at the last minute. Wait until Trump hears about that one.
But this is all water under the bridge and we’ve moved on. Qatar pledged to build nine new stadiums from scratch and renovate three more for the tournament, and have just announced they are spending close to $500 million per week - more money than you can sheikh a stick at - not just on building the stadiums but on roads and hospitals and other capital projects ready for the event. Now I feel sure that had we made it clear to the judges that we already had roads and hospitals we could have been in for a shout for 2022 - but, we’ve moved on.
And you could argue that they’re wasting their time because when Trump is finished getting even, no one will be going in or out of the Middle East anyway, but let’s say it goes ahead. They’ve got twelve new stadiums, half of which will only be used for group games. Then they’re done and finished with - it's hardly worth importing the turf from Switzerland.
There were pictures this week of the venues for the Rio 2016 Olympics looking like the Newcastle Road dog track in the seventies. Fallen into disrepair and being looted, no longer required or needed. That’s in a country of 200 million people mad about sport. What about a country of 2 million people who can’t go outside in summer?
Well, they have a plan.
After the Cup it is planned to dismantle parts of the stadiums and send them to developing countries to make 22 new stadiums.
Not sure about either the maths or the architecture involved, but if it happens it’ll be a beautiful thing, although not as beautiful as going to those developing countries and building roads and hospitals.
Of course the whole thing is outright lunacy and reeks to the core of corruption in Russia, Qatar and FIFA. At the time there was some posturing from the FA, who knew that Russia had been approved even before voting took place, but as far as I know it has come to nothing. And we all knew that FIFA was bent, it was common knowledge - Gary Lineker's tweets were full of stuff, but no-one did anything. We just watched and tutted and talked about how awful it was.
It took the FBI of course to blow the lid off the organisation, and Blatter and Platini got what they deserved – enforced gardening leave I believe, and the new man took over – ‘Gianni Infantino’, who, by coincidence was born in the next village to Sepp Blatter in Switzerland. There must be something in the water.
But what has changed? We still have World Cups coming up in Russia and Qatar, although the bidding process is being investigated by the Swiss authorities, and given that the first of those is next year, they better get their finger out.
Infantino, in a broad gesture designed to demonstrate FIFA’s new transparency, has published details of his earnings, so now we don’t just have to assume he earns lots of money. He travels the world in private jets, provided (allegedly) by Russia and Qatar, and he’s just appointed Maradona to an untitled position within FIFA in a move to establish closer links between FIFA and some of the games greatest players, cheats and drug addicts.
So not a lot has changed, but what can we do about it? Well, something may come from the Swiss investigation of course, but if not, it's apparent - we should boycott both World Cups and leave FIFA. Why not? Why not make a stand for once, do the right thing?
Of course all of this passion and righteousness will need to be channeled through the FA - who are members of FIFA - and I have some history in this regard. I wrote to them last year asking them to reconsider allowing the supporters band to play at England internationals.
‘Get rid of the sodding band’, I said.
‘No’, they said.
So we know they’re not completely averse to a reasonable and compelling argument.
But alas, there’s a problem. What is it about unregulated organisations with unlimited amounts of cash at their disposal that make them so difficult to get close to?
The FA rival only ‘The Illuminati’ in their secrecy and anonymity, but are unfortunately far less efficient in administering ruthless and immediate justice. So inefficient in fact that in order to admit you were once part of it, you have to come out with a statement saying how totally useless they are. This includes the current chairman Greg Clarke, who says he’ll resign if they ‘don’t stop picking on me’ - sorry - ‘if reform is not delivered’.
Just to hammer home the need to change, this week Parliament held a debate entitled ‘The FA better shape up or we’re going to give them a Chinese burn’ - I paraphrased, and the vote was carried by the four or five MPs who bothered to turn up. Parliament has been threatening the FA for 16 years to reform itself and the FA has responded by continuing to tell Parliament to go and do one.
So that’s where we are – in order to effect real change, Parliament has to force the FA into reform measures, and that won’t happen until the MPs know that’s there’s a groundswell of public opinion in favour of change. And it would be nice to think that a new organisation, once formed, would be more active and vocal in speaking out against the obvious wrongs and odious behaviour in the wider part of the game.
So the next time someone knocks on your door asking for your vote, you know what to do.