How pleasing that the sleazebags at Fifa are finally getting their comeuppance. We have all known what has been going on for years: dodgy deals in hotels, backhanders to secure votes. Who could disagree with the judgement of Greg Dyke, chairman of the FA when he suggested: ‘There is no way of rebuilding trust in Fifa while Sepp Blatter is still there.’ If we won’t go, let’s boycott the World Cup until Fifa is governed like, er, our own upstanding football establishment.
That’s the problem. Yes, of course Fifa is a fetid pit of corruption, but we can’t exactly claim the moral high ground, not with our own history of bungs, match-fixing scandals and player-rapists. If there were a World Cup for scandal on and off the pitch we would certainly be in with a shout of a chance of lifting the trophy – probably a bigger chance than of lifting the real thing.
The attack on Fifa from these islands is inspired not by our own moral superiority but by our failure to secure the right to hold the 2018 World Cup. We thought he had the right to it, but we lost. That may turn out to have been a result of brown envelopes stuffed with cash, but then again even without the brown envelopes does England look a particularly appealing place to host a World Cup? Even after years of cracking down on hooligans, our fans still seem to be capable of playing more than their fair share of trouble at foreign matches.
Then there is the weather. We bleat at the decision to hold the cup in Qatar, saying that it is unfair to expect players to kick a ball around in tropical heat. But if you are an African team you might think it equally unfair to force players onto the field in the rain? And what about your fans? If you are a developing nation, why would you want to vote for a World Cup in England knowing that few of your fans would be able to afford to travel there, and even if they could they would struggle to get a visa and be treated as unwanted aliens?
Sleaze or no sleaze, we couldn’t have taken the vote on the right to hold the World Cup for granted. We certainly have no right to hold it. Yet ever since the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were decided in 2010 we have acted as if we do. Last June, for example, Nick Clegg demanded that the 2022 contest be run again. A month later, in response to the shooting down of flight MH17 he was at it again, this time demanding that Russia be stripped of the 2018 cup. It is hard to imagine that the World Cup would have been his first reaction to the news were he not preoccupied with the thought that maybe he could deliver the World Cup for England after all. There is much wrong with Fifa, but I wish we wouldn’t approach the problem by giving the impression of being bad losers.