Sepp Blatter should focus more on football than his legacy.

15th January 2011

In the wake of the humiliating defeat of England’s World Cup bid, a few things spring to mind. Andy Anson’s comments regarding the impact of the media on Fifa’s decision, whilst not criticising the media himself, are vitally important for future bids. They are vitally important for the future prosperity of our national team as well. Anson made the point that the voting committees stated “our media killed us”. This was the reason England only received two votes. The poor timing of the Panorama documentary into corruption in Fifa as well as previous coverage on corruption by The Sunday Times is specifically why football’s governing body turned its back on what was a phenomenal bid.

Yet this is the not the first time our media has decimated the nation’s hopes and dreams when it comes to football. With the benefit of hindsight, having Luis Felipe Scolari as England manager may not have been a great thing but at the time people were desperate for the Portuguese to take charge. Scolari picked out the media as the main reason he didn’t take the England job. Due to the desperation to have breaking news our media scared off a World Cup winning manager before we even had a chance. Even in Zurich before the decision was given the BBC sloppily cut to David Bond- BBC’s sports editor- who gave away England’s failure ten minutes before Blatter revealed Russia as the winning bid. The excitement and tension of watching the voting process was ruined by this innate desire to break the news slightly faster.

One cannot help but think that if the media in this country were not so intrusive and fickle then our football, internationally in particular, would not be as torturous. I do pity players who represent England. They, more than any other international side, have to cope with unnecessary amounts of pressure due to a combination of a lack of international success on the pitch since 1966 and this assumption that because we invented the game we should be best at it. This country’s media, to the national team’s detriment, amplifies both these pressures daily.

However, the main issue with England’s failed bid in my mind does not rest with the media. Fifa have been shown to have a problem with corruption in the upper echelons, as the recent fines and suspensions of two Fifa officials illustrate. But the biggest problem of them all is Sepp Blatter and his bewildering desire to leave a unique legacy as Fifa president. This is the reason why a superior England bid lost to Russia.

Location more than the success of a tournament is clearly more important to Blatter. Like South Africa before it, Russia and Qatar were both bids with “medium” to “high-risk” issues in regards to infrastructure, safety and the rest. Ultimately it depends on what FIFA’s priority should be, as governing body of the world’s most popular sport, and what it actually is. If it’s to have phenomenal football tournaments, then England should have won. Clearly Mr. Blatter and his board of lunatics don’t agree, and instead would prefer the tournament to break boundaries, both geographically and politically, whilst ignoring the long-standing football nations. FIFA have to live with their decision, which they will have no problem with, but we also have to live with FIFA’s decision, which isn’t as easy.

I just hope that the next three World Cups in Brazil, Russia and Qatar do not receive the same indifference in footballing terms that South Africa 2010 did. After all, World Cups are a football tournament first and foremost; at least they used to be. If Mr. Blatter wants his legacy to be making football a truly global game that is fair enough, I just hope he can accept that his legacy off the pitch will breed mediocrity on it.

Stephen Patrick Hankey
N .B. Article written in 2010 but website down over Christmas break