FIFA evaluates World Cup bids

i-7fdcd955837de372d5a047458a68040d-fifalogo.jpgWith just over two weeks remaining before bids are awarded for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals.

To me it sounds essentially like a cover your ass kind of report when bids are rejected.

Incidentally, Lionel Messi weaved his way through four Brazilian defenders earlier today and scored in second half stoppage time as Argentina beat Brazil 1-0 in Qatar, in a showcase game meant to drum up support for the Middle East nation’s World Cup bid.

i-e206f60e40a757bdd25923bf6b1e0767-messidifferencemaker.jpgMaking a difference: Argentina’s Lionel Messi scores the winner against Brazil in Qatar today (AP Photo).

You can bet FIFA types saw the yahoo running across the field during the game and wondered about security precautions in the nation though. That’s not going to hurt the rival U.S. bid.

AP Writer Graham Dunbar has more on the FIFA report:

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA says the United States bid needs stronger guarantees of federal government support and Qatar’s desert heat could put players’ health at risk at a 2022 World Cup.

FIFA’s technical advisers provided reasons to reject all nine 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding projects in evaluation reports published Wednesday, 15 days before its executive committee chooses the two winners in a secret ballot.

The assessments are designed to highlight legal, commercial and organizational risks that soccer’s governing body could face in opting to entrust a bidder with the tournament that earns FIFA about 95 percent of its income every four years.

“We feel we have accomplished our work in the spirit of integrity, objectiveness and
transparency,” Harold Mayne-Nicholls, the Chilean who led the inspections, said in an
introduction to his team’s report.

The United States and Qatar are hoping for the 2022 World Cup, along with Australia, South Korea and Japan. Russia is up against England, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands for the 2018 tournament.

However, the 24-person executive body — and two members in particular — have more pressing World Cup issues.

FIFA published summaries of the technical reports as its ethics court sat for a third day to investigate allegations published by a British newspaper that voters and bidders have been corruptly trading votes behind the scenes.

The ethics panel will announce Thursday if Amos Adamu of Nigeria and Reynald Temarii of Tahiti should be barred for allegedly offering their support for sale, and whether to exclude the Qatari and Spain-Portugal bids over allegations they broke FIFA rules by colluding to swap votes.

i-f14da454d7a127c23458cc115d412f03-blatter.jpgFIFA President Sepp Blatter, right, will lead an emergency executive session on Friday, perhaps with Adamu and Temarii reinstated, to consider how the ethics rulings affect the ballot on Dec. 2 in Zurich. Bid evaluations are also on the executive agenda.

The six-member technical panel aimed to highlight concerns after making four-day visits to each bid team between July and September.

The United States bid, seen as Qatar’s main rival in the 2022 contest, was marked as a
“medium” legal risk because “neither the government guarantees, the government declaration nor the government legal statement have been provided in compliance with FIFA’s requirements.”

David Downs, executive director of the American bid, said changes were made “given the unique nature of the law and governmental authority in the U.S. democracy.”

“We have been in conversations with FIFA about this and they are comfortable with the
situation,” Downs said in a statement.

Qatar’s report highlighted that the proposed 2022 finals would be played in June and July — “the two hottest months of the year in this region.” Average temperatures then are (106 degrees).

“The fact … has to be considered as a potential health risk for players, officials, the FIFA family and spectators, and requires precautions to be taken,” the FIFA report said.

Qatar bid chief executive Hassan Al-Thawadi said the issue was being addressed through air-cooling systems lowering stadium temperatures to 81 degrees. Training camps and viewing zones where fans will gather to watch matches on giant screens also would be cooled.

The report picked out possible logistical challenges from having 10 of 12 proposed stadiums within a 19-mile radius.

“We are aware of the concerns expressed but we have ensured that all of them can be answered to the satisfaction of the global football family,” Al-Thawadi said in a statement.

In the 2018 contest, FIFA’s technical team had concerns with Russia’s ambitious project to build billions of dollars’ worth of new stadiums and infrastructure, coupled with its
“vastness and remoteness from other countries.”

The lack of high-speed rail links would “put pressure on the air traffic infrastructure” and
cause challenges in moving teams, officials and fans between matches.

“Any delay in the completion of the transport projects could impact on FIFA’s tournament operations,” the report said.

FIFA’s concerns appeared to be validated when Belgium’s national team was delayed arriving in Voronezh, where it plays Russia in a friendly on Wednesday. Fog in Voronezh forced the team’s flight to land in Moscow on Tuesday, and players spent the night there because no high-speed rail link connects the cities, which are 300 miles apart.

“Risks in the operational area that FIFA has flagged up in their bid evaluation report are
already being addressed and will all be solved well ahead of the 2018 World Cup,” Russia bid spokesman Andreas Herren said in a statement.

England, which has stressed it is ready now to stage the 2018 finals, was marked down for its provision of team hotels and training bases.

FIFA found fault in Spain-Portugal’s plans for security and along with the Belgium-Netherlands report, raised an old fear about co-hosting. The governing body has negative memories of its so-called “two of everything” tournament when Japan and South Korea staged the 2002 World Cup.

Japan and South Korea are bidding individually for 2022 and, along with Australia, pose
potential commercial problems for FIFA, which earned about $3.5 billion in television,
sponsorship and licensing deals from the recent World Cup in South Africa.

Playing in Asia meant “a risk of a reduction in TV income and, as a result, commercial revenue from Europe and the Americas. The income from Asia-Oceania would need to be increased substantially to offset the likelihood of loss of revenue,” FIFA said.

The inspection team of six FIFA-appointed officials was led by Mayne-Nicholls, the former president of Chile’s soccer federation, and included Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of South Africa’s organizing committee.

Their four-day visits were characterized by whistle-stop helicopter tours, formal dinners with political leaders and news conferences where questions from local media were not
allowed.

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group columnist and blogger Nick Green writes about soccer at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!