From July to mid-September a FIFA inspection team visited the eleven countries involved in the nine bids to host either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup Finals. For some, criss-crossing the globe at others expense may sound exotic and appealing.
However, the six-man inspection team probably sat through more deadly boring presentations, met more mealy-mouthed politicians, suffered through more scrimmages involving fresh-faced boys and girls in replica shirts and were expected to smile on-demand at more photo-ops than any right-minded person should have to undergo in ten lifetimes.
The conclusion of each visit left each bidder publicly buoyed with the inspectors media statements and served to reaffirm their long stated believe that come December 2 their country will be one of the two winning bids.
But the vote on December 2 will not be influenced by the inspectors’ visits or by their report to be tabled later this month. The official rationale for the inspections was to review each of the bidding countries facilities (stadiums and others such as the IBC), the transportation hubs, the inventory of hotel rooms and other key factors of the respective bids.
In some cases (Russia for example) stadiums will be built from scratch which made it impossible to visit many of the proposed facilities. On the other hand, it made it much easier to fulfill the FIFA mandate of assessing of each bid within a window of 72 hours.
Frankly if the six man inspection group, comprising Chair Harold Mayne-Nicholls, Danny Jordaan, Jürgen Müller, Wolfgang Eichler, David Fowler and Julio Avellar, were able to undertake a complete and thorough review of each bid based on a three day visit then bringing global peace and harmony should be doable over a long-weekend. The process is all window dressing.
FIFA sent this group to each of the bid countries because it is expected – not because it plays a critical role in the final decision. As long as the bids have fulfilled the core FIFA requirements in terms of no deficit responsibility flowing to the international body, protection of FIFA World Cup sponsors and lavish hospitality being offered to the FIFA Family all bids can expect to be given a green light.
In order to maintain some semblance of critical review each bid will have a number of small but basically meaningless negatives just to keep everyone on their toes until decision-day in December.
It is in FIFA’s interest to keep all the bidders on tenterhooks right to the end – that way desperate bidders will be more willing to cut deals or be made to realize that they owe certain power brokers within the FIFA Executive favors – markers that will be called down the road.
The FIFA inspection plays no part in the final vote – no one in the six-man group who racked up massive air miles from July to September has any final influence whatsoever.
It comes down to the votes of the 24-man FIFA Executive and something as inconsequential as an inspection report is not going to override the politics of international sport at the highest level.
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