William and the two Daves
Well the fat lady is just beginning her warm-up routine and by the time we get home from work tonight we will know the result of the bidding process for both the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.
Whilst the only certainties in life may well be death and taxes anybody who has ever watched the Eurovision Song Contest will know that England (or the United Kingdom in the warbling event) are not the most popular show in town. Yes we have the stadia, the hotels, the fans, the merchandising experience, the infrastructure but we are not the most loved group of nations in world football. The legacy of Empire looms large over almost any discussion involving the motherland of football and it will be interesting to see whether Spain/Portugal, Russia, Holland/Belgium or ourselves get the competition.
Awarding it to a joint Iberian bid seems unfair if only because Spain managed to host a chaotic World Cup in 1982, we haven't had one since you know when. The economic state of those two countries would also seem to preclude the required investment and I know that some Spanish journalists have also expressed concerns about security issues.
Whilst Russia would seem to meet the criteria of opening up new horizons it is a country with huge social problems, not least the rampant unchecked racism that exists in and around its domestic football. And there is also the thought that should they miss out Western Europe will have its gas supplies turned off by Friday morning.
Whilst Holland/Belgium did co-host the European Championships in 2000 they both require investment in new stadia and Belgium is standing at the edge of financial meltdown. The two countries have good transport links, both in the host countries and connections with the rest of Europe, but Belgium in particular is not in a good place in terms of financial investment in its football grounds.
England looks the best on paper, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton, Southampton, Sunderland, Aston Villa, and of course Wembley are all rated 4 or 5 star stadia by UEFA. Spain/Portugal have a total of 7, Russia has 1 and Holland has 2. We are also adding Plymouth and MK Dons grounds to our list, we are ready to go. English attendances at the highest level are bettered only by Germany, we have decent road and rail links and unlike Russia there aren't time differences between East and West, although if you've ever been to either Suffolk or Cornwall you'll appreciate that time can be measured in a variety of ways.
The 2022 decision looks to me like a complete no brainer, I mean why are Qatar even on the list? A country with one football ground, 600,000 people and a runway that can't cope with anything bigger than the Kittyhawke - oh and daytime temperatures exceeding 50 degrees centigrade. Award it to Qatar and say hello to the first indoor air conditioned World Cup. Zinedine Zidane is currently starring in a wonderful television commercial supporting the Qatar bid and the public pleading has been similar to those adverts you get on afternoon television for children's charities or send a quid to save a dogs life: "Give the World Cup to Qatar and children from Doha to Damascus will see their elusive dream realised."
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have been supporting the USA bid, although the rumour that Diana Ross will be given a second chance to take that penalty have been denied. The USA are promising huge profits, hugely indifferent crowds and a senate backed invasion plan for any country that doesn't vote for them.
That leaves Australia, South Korea and Japan.
Given that they co-hosted the 2002 World Cup you do wonder why Japan and South Korea are back so soon, but I have a theory why that is. The two countries are going it alone this time round, Japan are building nine new stadia, presumably importing the East European labour that has been building the Olympic village at Stratford before heading out east via the Poland/Ukraine Euro 2012 building project.
Australia did a great job when Sydney hosted the Olympics but they don't have a great tradition in producing good footballers and they don't have much competition when it comes to qualifying for World Cups. Australia is similar to the USA in that football comes down the list of sports considered important in the Aussie mind, somewhere after Aussie Rules, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Cricket and Pom Bashing. Another point is, as anybody who has ever watched the television series Border Control will testify, it's bloody difficult to get into Australia.
As my vote doesn't count any more than that of Simon Cowell, Noel Gallagher, Stephen Fry or Gordon Brown, who have all been asked their opinion on the matter I'll go for England for the 2018 and USA for 2022. And just in case you're wondering about my Asian country as host theory, I'd like to offer China or India as outside bets for 2026.