Tuesday’s column: What’s a World Cup worth?

i-01b35029de00a787367a12788dc93bf8-beckszurich.jpgSay, where is Landon Donovan anyway? If it’s visibility you want look no further than the Galaxy’s David Beckham, popping up in Zurich today to hand out T-shirts on behalf of England’s 2018 bid (AP Photo).

Given the scandalous morass that is the FIFA World Cup bidding process for 2018 and 2022, the high-powered bid committees involved and the alleged economic benefits and prestige at stake, it’s a fair question.

I tried to sum up some of those issues ahead of Thursday’s decision in today’s column

From a soccer perspective – the continued development of the U.S. Men’s National Team and MLS, to name but two – another domestic World Cup is just what the game needs in this country, of course.

But if it’s economic development you’re after – jobs, tourists, increased sales tax revenues, well, the World Cup is unlikely to provide much of a boost there (in the short run) .

It’s worth noting, sports economist Professor Coates, who was quoted in the column, said Monday in an interview, that there’s a very good reason no one from FIFA or U.S. Soccer – including U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati, also an Ivy League economist – has defended their rosy economic forecasts or released the supposed economic impact study underpinning the American bid:

“He knows that it’s bullshit,” Coates said. “It’s a marketing project. … (The economic impact report) is no more academic research on the (economic) impact of stadiums than a campaign ad is an accurate reflection of a candidate’s actual positions … I’m sure he won’t make it public because he knows it’s indefensible.”

Coates also makes the argument that FIFA needs the developed resources the U.S. has – the stadiums, hotel space, public infrastructure – and those highly desirable desirable elements should be worth paying for:

“Rather than us trying to bid to them to get it they should be coming to us and saying ‘y’know, all the stuff we need is there – what do we have to give you to get access to it?’

“Rather than saying here are the keys to the treasury, come grace us with your presence, how about ‘you want our high quality facilities? How much are you willing to pay for them?’ That’s how we get economic development.”

Not the type of inspiring message likely to win the U.S. the World Cup bid, though, right Morgan Freeman?

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Monday World Cup bid update

i-a59bd4a0e1e97e4b1f9d6beb9e7ac0c4-blatterhands.jpg Hands up all of you who think FIFA is corrupt and the World Cup bid voting should be postponed: No, not you FIFA President Sepp Blatter (AGP file photos).

With FIFA’s Thursday decision on the host nations for the World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022 looming, reporters around the world are performing the journalistic equivalent of reading tea leaves as they try to figure out which nation has a supposed leg up on its rivals. Or perhaps trying to guess who has paid off who is more appropriate given the revelations surrounding those that cast ballots, which kept on coming Monday.

Here’s an update on how things stand (or are perceived ahead of the crucial vote) and check out the links after the story for more stories that make you say “hmmm”:

ZURICH (AP) — Three days before the vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts, FIFA was hit by further corruption allegations Monday when three senior officials were accused by European media of having received secret payments.

Executive committee members Ricardo Teixeira of Brazil, Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and Issa Hayatou of Cameroon were named as having allegedly received payoffs from world soccer’s former marketing agency.

The three long-standing members of FIFA’s ruling panel received kickbacks from marketing agency ISL from 1989-99, the BBC and Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger and Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported.

The three media outlets said they obtained a secret ISL document listing the names and

ISL and parent company ISMM went bust in May 2001, leaving debts estimated at $300 million and plunging FIFA into a financial crisis. The collapse triggered one of Switzerland’s biggest criminal fraud cases.

The BBC, which was airing the allegations on its flagship documentary program “Panorama” on Monday night, said the three men did not respond to requests for comment about the allegations.

FIFA told The Associated Press it had no immediate comment on the reports.

The reports said Teixeira, who heads the Brazilian committee organizing the 2014 World Cup, received $9.5 million dollars.

Leoz, the South American soccer confederation president, reportedly got $600,000. The
82-year-old lawyer had previously been identified as receiving two kickbacks worth a total of $130,000 when six former ISL executives went on trial and were cleared of fraud charges in 2008.

African soccer leader Hayatou, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, allegedly received about $20,000 in 1995.

The BBC also made fresh allegations of wrongdoing against FIFA vice president Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago involving the sale of World Cup tickets. He was previously criticized by FIFA’s ethics committee over his involvement in ticket-selling deals related to the 2006 tournament.

The BBC alleged that Warner tried to procure tickets for the 2010 World Cup in a scalping scam. It said the deal fell through when scalpers would not pay Warner’s asking price.

The BBC pressed ahead with the investigation despite fears at home it would damage England’s 2018 bid by alienating FIFA voters. Warner heads the CONCACAF regional body whose three votes are deemed to be crucial to England’s campaign.

Teixeira, Hayatou, Leoz and Warner are scheduled to take part in FIFA’s 22-man vote Thursday to select the two World Cup hosts. The 2018 contest involves England, Russia and joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium. The 2022 candidates are the United States, Qatar, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

i-1d14910a8e888bf4c720462fae323c36-FIFAHQ.jpgThe lights are on, but is anybody home at the FIFA HQ in Switzerland – or are they all out taking bribes? Judging by recent events, it may well be a legitimate question.

The latest allegations came two weeks after two FIFA executive committee members were banned from the World Cup voting for ethics violations.

FIFA’s ethics panel suspended Amos Adamu of Nigeria for three years after he was linked to bribe-taking in a British newspaper’s undercover sting.

Oceania soccer chief Reynald Temarii was cleared of corruption, but received a one-year ban for breaching FIFA confidentiality rules.

FIFA’s ethics committee also investigated alleged vote-trading, but did not find enough
evidence to prove allegations that Spain-Portugal and Qatar had colluded.

In their 2008 trial, ISL executives said secret payments to officials, channeled through
accounts in Liechtenstein, were essential to secure sports rights and marketing contracts. Such payments were then not illegal under Swiss law and the executives were acquitted of most charges.

After the verdicts in July 2008, prosecutors in the Swiss canton of Zug said a second trial was possible to examine whether any FIFA officials received illegal payments from

Prosecutors finally closed the file in June after the defendants repaid $5.5 million in

“It is important to stress that no FIFA officials were accused of any criminal offense in
these proceedings,” Blatter was quoted by BBC as saying.

Meanwhile, demands on the suspended Reynald Temarii to give up his legal rights amount to blackmail, his lawyer said Monday.

Temarii has not waived his right to appeal a one-year ban for ethics violations less than
three days before the 2018 and 2022 World Cup votes.

FIFA has told the Oceania Football Confederation president he must stand aside before a replacement — Temarii’s deputy David Chung — can vote on Thursday.

Lawyer Geraldine Lesieur told The Associated Press that Temarii feels he’s being asked to be a sacrificial hero.

“He gives up his rights and sacrifices himself — or he sticks by his guns and that will be
held against him, that the OFC did not vote,” Lesieur said.

“If he is obliged to (waive his appeal), then it will be true blackmail … it is because of
FIFA’s demands.”

Pressure also has been exerted by Temarii’s colleagues at Oceania, who asked FIFA to accept Papua New Guinean official Chung as the 23rd executive committee member. Oceania has sought to appease Temarii by delaying its 2011 Congress until December, technically allowing him to stand for re-election after the ban expires.

Australia’s bid team is anxious for the legal impasse to end because Oceania has promised to support its neighbor in the 2022 contest.

However, Temarii wants one demand met by FIFA before he considers forfeiting his right to clear his name.

He wants FIFA’s ethics committee to provide detailed reasons why it banned him from all soccer duty for breaking confidentiality rules when he spoke with undercover reporters who tried to link him with bribe-taking.

Lesieur said she believes Temarii could win an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport — thus raising the possibility the World Cup vote could one day be declared invalid.

“It’s a risk,” the Paris-based lawyer said. “(FIFA) are capable of asking an individual to
give up all their rights because if they go through with their appeals, the vote of Dec. 2 is void. That is the only thing that can explain this pressure.”

The Oceania issue simmered in the background at FIFA headquarters on Monday as voters and bidders continued arriving for the final stretch of lobbying. The chief executive of England’s 2018 bid, Andy Anson, said he expected Oceania’s vote would be in play.

“We are anticipating it will be 23 voters,” Anson said. “It means you’ve got to get 12 votes to get over the line. We know which 12 votes we are targeting.”

With Oceania’s possible intentions for 2018 unclear, England and its rivals Russia,
Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal all will seek its support. Australia wants Oceania’s guaranteed vote because the other 2022 candidates — the United States, Japan, South Korea and Qatar — all are directly represented on the FIFA executive committee.

And if you followed all those dizzying permutations, then you might be interested to know:

*The U.S. is apparently not immune to all this politicking judging by this blog post written by CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer.

*Soccer America has yet more on the who will support who game, as well as the mechanics of the voting process.

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Galaxy’s Beckham ready to make England’s World Cup case

i-29faeadfc02bea1cda3dc233ce27eabf-beckhamcoe.jpgOne bid down, another to go: David Beckham tours the main Olympic stadium in London under construction for the 2012 Olympics during a visit Monday with Sebastian Coe, left, chair of the games’ organizing committee (AP Photo).

The U.S. bid has the likes of the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan stumping for the U.S. bid in Switzerland for the 2022 tournament (the Americans previously announced they would withdraw from consideration to host the World Cup in 2018), while the Brits boast “our” David Beckham:

LONDON (AP) — David Beckham hopes he can provide some of the same magic for England’s 2018 World Cup bid that he did for London’s successful campaign to host the 2012 Olympics.

Visiting the Olympic Stadium in his native East London for the first time Monday, the former national team captain said he can play a key role for England ahead of Thursday’s FIFA vote in Zurich.

“Hopefully I’ll make a difference,” the Galaxy midfielder said, bundled up against the biting cold as he surveyed the inside of the 80,000-capacity stadium.

Beckham is flying to Switzerland Tuesday as part of a top-level England bid delegation that includes Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William. England, which hosted the World Cup in 1966, is competing against Russia and joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium.

“I have been involved in the bid and working hard on the bid,” Beckham said. “Everyone that’s in the bid team has worked very hard to get it to the point where we’ve got it now. We’re going to be still meeting members of FIFA and the delegates.

“It’s just about making sure we keep telling people the reasons why we believe England
will be the right place to hold the World Cup.”

Beckham was part of the London delegation that wooed International Olympic Committee members ahead of the 2012 Olympic vote in Singapore in 1995. England defeated favored Paris in the final round.

“It would be nice for the same result as we had in Singapore because it was such an amazing feeling to get the vote and to get the Olympics in the East End of London and our country,” Beckham said. “Hopefully it will be the same this time around.”

The bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups has been overshadowed by allegations of corruption and vote trading, and the BBC was scheduled to air a documentary Monday night on further irregularities.

“I’m not going to get into the politics,” Beckham said. “I believe it will be a fair decision.
… Anything going on behind the scenes, I don’t think will make a difference.

“At the end of the day, it’s down to what our bid team have done and what our legacy of
English football is that hopefully will get us the World Cup — the history, the tradition and the benefits that can be gained of holding a World Cup in England.”

Beckham grew up in East London, not far from the Stratford area where the 2012 Olympic Park is taking shape. He toured the stadium and the rest of the site Monday with London organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe.

“It’s a very proud moment for me and a lot of East End people to see the makeover that’s going on,” the 35-year-old former Manchester United and Real Madrid star said. “The stadium is amazing. It’s a stadium that when you drive up to it, it’s got that aura about it.”

The stadium was originally designed to be downsized after the games to a 25,000-seat venue for athletics, but the Olympic Park Legacy Company is currently considering final tenancy bids from Premier League soccer teams West Ham and Tottenham. West Ham would keep the running track, while Spurs would not.

Beckham, who has a year left on his five-year contract with the Galaxy, reiterated that he has no plans for retirement.

“I’ll see my contract out with the Galaxy,” he said. “After that, I’ll be 36 years old. I still want to play football. I’m not ready to finish playing yet. We’ll see what happens after

Beckham recently returned to action after an Achilles’ injury that kept him out of the World Cup in South Africa. He spent the last two MLS offseasons playing on loan at AC Milan, and Premier League side Everton has said it would love to take Beckham on loan this winter.

Beckham didn’t rule out another loan move at some point.

“It’s possible,” he said. “I had a difficult injury to get over last year. My body is still
hurting from that. If I get my back into order, we’ll have to wait and see.”

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Monday Kicks: Women’s World Cup draw & more

i-fcf78654447167430d9a9df647bed62a-WC2011draw.jpgAnd the groups are: Next summer’s Women’s World Cup schedule is set after today’s draw in Frankfurt, Germany (AP Photo).

*More details on today’s draw for the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany are here.

Here’s the tournament schedule.

And here’s reaction to the draw in this story from Associated Press writer Nancy Armour:

The United States wound up with what could be the toughest group at next summer’s Women’s World Cup, drawing North Korea, Colombia and Sweden on Monday.

The top-ranked Americans were the last team to qualify for the 16-nation tournament, beating Italy in a home-and-home playoff on Saturday after being stunned by Mexico in the semifinals of regional qualifying. Still, the U.S. is a top seed, as are two-time defending champion Germany, Japan and Brazil. The tournament will be played June 26 to July 17 at nine sites in Germany.

“It’s good because it’s a very strong group. That’s the best thing that could happen to us,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said Monday from the draw in Frankfurt, Germany. “That will be inspiring for us, the fact we’re playing high-ranked teams like Sweden and North Korea and a new team, Colombia, which will be so enthusiastic going into the World Cup.”

Sweden is No. 4 in the latest world rankings while North Korea is sixth. Germany is the only other seeded team to draw two top-10 opponents, with No. 8 France and No. 9 Canada joining Nigeria in Group A.

The U.S. opens June 28 against North Korea, the fourth straight time these nations will meet in the group stage. The Americans beat the North Koreans 3-0 in 1999 and 2003, but tied 2-2 in 2007.

“At the time, we had a very experienced team, now we have a very young, inexperienced team and I am a little bit worried,” North Korea coach Kim Kwang-min said through an interpreter. “Maybe we can win with our spirit. After the last World Cup, we went through a change of generations and it was successful.”

The North Koreans have had impressive results at the youth level, winning the 2006 Under-20 and 2008 Under-17 World Cups. North Korea was the runner-up to the Americans at the 2008 Under-20 World Cup.

“The new team is very young and inexperienced, but very ambitious,” Kim said. “We don’t have high aims, but to do as well as we can.”

The U.S. will face World Cup newcomer Colombia on July 2 and finish group play four days later against Sweden, the team Sundhage played for at the 1991 and ’95 World Cups.

“It’s just a little bit weird before and after,” Sundhage said. “But during the game, it’s
like coaching against any team, actually.”

The Americans won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999 and have finished no worse than third. They also are the defending Olympic champions and have won all but one gold medal since women’s soccer was added to the Olympic program in 1996.

“I’m happy to know who we’re playing,” U.S. defender Ali Krieger said. “It’s definitely going to be tough, but each group has really tough teams, really strong teams. We’re not going to be looking ahead to the semifinal or final, we have to really focus on the group stage. “But because we have such a strong group, we’re going to be very motivated to play well.”

*In other women’s soccer news, the Sol have returned – sort of – and will field pro teams, one in the Bay Area, the other in Orange County, in the largely amateur Women’s Premier Soccer League. Former Sol Coach Abner Rogers will coach the Southern California Sol.

*A belated tip of the hat to Palos Verdes Estates’ Christen Press, who just can’t stop scoring for Stanford in the NCAA Tournament.

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USC product A-Rod leads “crap” U.S. past Italy to qualify for WQ

Well, the “crap” only applied to the U.S. play in the opening 20 minutes or so, in truth, according to Coach Pia Sundhage.

But at least it looks like the young guns are bringing it for the U.S.

After 21-year-old Alex Morgan of Diamond Bar gave the U.S. the vital sole goal over Italy last week, 23-year-old Southern Californian Amy Rodriguez led the U.S. with a strike for another 1-0 over Italy today in Chicago for a 2-0 on aggregate World Cup qualifying series triumph that takes the U.S. to Germany next year.

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Galaxy reach end of long season road in Oz loss

Newcastle Jets 2 Galaxy 1

i-8a62b537c831f2e4a6157a09fbe34aa3-becks.jpgBending but not broken: An uncomfortable looking David Beckham grimaced, smiled and mostly walked his way through the game but still thrilled the crowd, especially a buxom blond in the stands brave enough to flaunt a “Bend Me Beckham” sign (AP Photo).

A newly-shorn and clearly tired Galaxy ended the season in Australia early Saturday with a mildly entertaining middle of the night loss for all concerned Down Under.

Familiar defensive frailties were on show yet again (Sean Franklin allowing an attacker to get behind him, A.J. DeLaGarza failing to man up in the middle) on the goals, but this was more occasion than competitive game.

And a terrible mix-up between the Jets’ goalkeeper and a defender was largely the cause of Landon Donovan’s chested in effort on an open goal that gave them an early seventh minute lead.

Juninho should have had a second for the Galaxy when he ripped a ninth minute shot that went pinging off the bar with the whole of the ball clearly coming down over the whole of the line in the Jets net on the TV replay, but came out and was not given.

The Jets also cleared a Galaxy second half effort off the goal line.

But the Galaxy flagged visibly as the game wore on (after an out of the blocks start) and Coach Bruce Arena substituted liberally giving retirees Eddie Lewis and Chris Klein final run outs and a lively looking Bryan Jordan of Temple City some significant minutes.

Game story here.

Galaxy: Donovan Ricketts (Josh Saunders 46′); Sean Franklin (Chris Klein 63′), A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez (Gregg Berhalter 46′), Todd Dunivant (Eddie Lewis 46′); Chris Birchall (Dema Kovalenko 68′), David Beckham, Juninho (Mike Magee 72′), Michael Stephens (Alex Cazumba 57′); Landon Donovan (Bryan Jordan 46′), Edson Buddle (Jovan Kirovski 46′).

*Here’s how the game played in Australia.

*Is Everton in Beckham’s future? Everton could use Landon Donovan, too, after losing 4-1 today to West Bromwich Albion.

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World Cup qualifying preview: U.S.- Italy

Diamond Bar’s Alex Morgan, the USA’s youngest player at age 21, seen here practicing earlier in the week for Saturday’s game against Italy, has scored four goals in just eight caps in her short women’s national team career (AP Photo).i-4b04880cdf8849c292d059c77be43e95-Alexmorgan.jpg

The U.S. leads 1-0 after the first leg in Italy. The second game kicks off at 11 a.m. Pacific in Chicago. Here’s a preview by Associated Press Writer NANCY ARMOUR:

There was a time not too long ago when the U.S. women could roll over opponents even when the Americans were far from at their best.

Those times are clearly gone.

Stunned in regional qualifying, the top-ranked Americans are scrambling for a spot at next year’s Women’s World Cup — a tournament they’ve won twice. After beating Italy last weekend in the first leg of a home-and-home playoff, the Americans can advance with a win or a draw in Saturday’s finale at Toyota Park.

“I think what we’re going through is a lot of months of soccer. It’s not so much physical
fatigue as it is mental,” captain Christie Rampone said Friday. “We’re not stressing, we’re not panicking too much. What we’re focused on right now is we’re not playing the best soccer (so) let’s just get the job done. If we qualify … then we’ll worry about fixing the things here and there come January.”

The Americans are not exactly a dying dynasty. Their loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF semifinals was their first since the opening game of the Beijing Olympics — where they went on to win the gold medal — and only their second since the 2007 World Cup. They’ve conceded 26 goals in 61 games under coach Pia Sundhage and have outscored opponents 47-6 this year alone.

But the United States is no longer the juggernaut it was in the 1990s, when Mia Hamm inspired millions of girls all over the world to lace up their cleats.

“All the nations in Europe, the world, have improved,” Italy coach Pietro Ghedin said. “The big gap, it’s a little bit smaller. But it is still a gap.”

Much like Michael Jordan’s championship Chicago Bulls or the New York Yankees in the late ’90s, Hamm and her teammates were a sublimely gifted group that would stand out in any generation. Hamm. Michelle Akers. Joy Fawcett. Tiffeny Milbrett. Kristine Lilly — the entire lineup was overwhelming.

But no team can sustain that kind of dominance, and the U.S. team is no different. As that golden generation of players was retiring, other countries were pumping more money into their women’s programs. Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Costa Rica, all have put more money and effort into improving their women’s teams, and the results are beginning to show.

“The best time to get a sense of that is when you lose,” Abby Wambach said. “We were getting a sense of it in ’04 and ’07, but winning kind of blinds you in some ways, especially if you’re so used to it.”

After getting over the upset to Mexico, the Americans are relishing their new challenge.

It’s similar to when they lost to Norway in the opener of the Olympic tournament, midfielder Carli Lloyd said. By being forced to refocus, the Americans might just become a better team.

“It’s all in the mind, and you have to change your mindset,” Lloyd said. “That’s the most
important thing: We can’t dwell on the one loss. It happened. But we’ve bounced back from it and we’re digging deep and we’re showing everyone why the U.S. has the history of being the No. 1 team in the world. We find a way to win.”

Ghedin doesn’t doubt it.

It would be “very difficult” to face the United States at any time, Ghedin said, but Italy’s
job is made even tougher by the loss of forward Melania Gabbiadini, who will be sidelined again with a twisted ankle. Gabbiadini, who had six goals during European qualifying, missed last weekend’s game with the ankle injury. She returned to training this week, but Ghedin said it’s “impossible” for her to play.

“It’s a big problem for us,” Ghedin said. “It’s very important for us, and she cannot play. I
tried to recover her, but it’s not possible.”

Italy still has Patrizia Panico, who scored 10 goals during European qualifying. The Azzurre went undefeated in winning their qualifying group only to lose to France in the playoffs to determine Europe’s first four qualifiers. (Germany automatically qualified as host.) It then beat Ukraine and Switzerland to earn the spot in the playoff against the U.S.

But the United States has won nine of its last 11 games against Italy and is 21-1-2 against European teams under Sundhage.

“We’re going out there to win,” Lloyd said. “We’ve got the same game plan we had the first game. We’re going to go at them, we’re going to create chances and we’re going to get the win. We’ve just got to all be on the same page, work hard and get the job done together.

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Friday Kicks: Galaxy in Oz & more

i-860edff96d52d1d84a6893f164b34004-Galaxylanded.jpgThe Galaxy has landed: Becks and the boys deplane in Australia (APF Photo).

*The Galaxy play their final game of the season at 12:30 a.m. Saturday, a friendly in Australia against the Newcastle Jets.

Apparently one local pundit sees the game for what it is – a farce (which seems a bit harsh to me, but then I’m a sensitive soul as regular readers know).

You can watch the dud, um, friendly at 12:30 a.m. Saturday live on Fox Soccer Channel with a pre-game show starting at midnight.

*A much more important game Saturday involves the second leg of the World Cup playoff between the U.S. and Italy. Naturally, it’s not on TV.

*Click at top right for the complete run-down of the many other games on TV this weekend, including Monday’s Real Madrid-Barcelona crash fans will not want to miss. If you haven’t heard, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is absolutely on fire.

*For those who prefer their football live and in person, the UCLA men play Dartmouth at 5 p.m. Sunday in the NCAA Tournament.

Whatever you do have a great continuation of the holiday weekend and I’m thankful you take the time to read this blog throughout the year.


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