Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Football Association

CHAPTER 10

MAJOR OBSTACLES ENCOUNTERED DURING THE CAMPAIGN

  10.1  Looking back over the history of the bid, England's campaign faced a series of challenges—some a result of events that occurred during the bidding process and others that existed throughout, for example, English football's relative lack of influence overseas (para 7.5).

  A summary of the principal obstacles the English campaign faced is set out below:

The So-Called Gentlemen's Agreement.

  10.2  This issue arose six months after the Football Association had announced its intention to bid for World Cup 2006 when out of the blue EUFA sent a fax to The FA at the end of January 1997. The circumstances that arose are described in Chapters 2 and 9 of this report and also in Appendices 6 and 7[11].

  10.3  Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, and there will always remain a difference of view between the German and English campaigns, this issue caused the biggest headache to the English bid. Throughout, it remained important to a bloc of Europeans and made that bloc determined to support Germany.

  10.4  The issue ensured that our own Confederation, UEFA, whilst officially not taking sides, did everything it could to ensure victory for Germany. Try as we might to counter the spurious arguments put forward in support of this so-called agreement, the reality is that England never really overcame this obstacle.

  10.5  Not surprisingly, the Germans came back to it time and time again. It was a good issue for the German campaign to press and tended to overshadow Germany's promotion of the positive side of its own case for hosting the tournament.

  10.6  At the outset we had good reason to believe that we could overcome the issue of the so-called agreement, but ultimately we failed. Crucially it deprived us of majority support within our Confederation, and undermined our credibility with FIFA members outside of Europe.

Hooliganism

  10.7  It is easy to see the hooligan issue simply in terms of what happened at EURO 2000. This however, as far as the bid was concerned, is an over-simplification.

  10.8  First, the history of hooliganism in England made this from the outset a cause of concern, both to the English campaign and to those we were canvassing. England's reputation for hooliganism travelled ahead of the campaign team and it was an issue we were often questioned about, particularly by the international media who in every other sense continually seemed receptive to our message.

  10.9  We had to work hard to convince the international journalists and others in world football that the problem of hooliganism had largely been solved. In this respect EURO '96 was a great benefit, as it illustrated that England could stage a peaceful and highly enjoyable international football event. On the whole, we managed to convince others that the problem was one that largely arose outside of the UK and therefore was not an issue as far as staging the World Cup was concerned. Nevertheless, in a general sense, hooliganism was a thorn in English football's flesh and will, at least for the foreseeable future, be an issue that will be raised by others overseas.

  10.10  Secondly, there was the trouble in Marseilles. This occurred during World Cup '98 and reminded everyone once again of the problem. The only good thing was that this episode was still over two years away from the 2006 vote and therefore unlikely to have any immediate impact on anyone's decision. That said, the trouble in Marseilles was extremely unhelpful.

  10.11  Thirdly, there was the trouble at EURO 2000 itself, which occurred on the 16 and 17 June, some three weeks before the crucial World Cup vote. While many have subsequently argued that the trouble was not as bad as it was portrayed, the media coverage of the events that occurred in Brussels and Charleroi was damning. Every newspaper on the Sunday morning (18 June) had pages of violent scenes and the reality was that it was impossible to defend the actions of a mindless bunch of hooligans. Outright condemnation from the Prime Minister downwards was all that England could offer and the world of football was left asking questions as to how much English football and the political authorities had actually managed to do to prevent this problem happening. Added to this, the Germans, who were also vulnerable on this issue, had clearly had more success than us in preventing hooligans reaching the tournament.

  10.12  Worse was to come as within twenty four hours UEFA was threatening to send the England team home—another blow to our international standing.

  10.13  The trouble at EURO 2000 was not the sole deciding factor in undermining our World Cup Bid, but it was immensely damaging to the English campaign and came at just the wrong moment. "How could hooliganism be rewarded by giving England the World Cup?" was not an unreasonable question. Had the FIFA Executive stuck to their original date of March 2000 for the vote on the 2006 World Cup, the outcome might just have been different.

The FIFA Presidential Election

  10.14  The election of a new President of FIFA in the summer of 1998 presented a different type of challenge to the English campaign. On the one hand England as a "good European" would be expected to support UEFA President, Lennart Johansson, in his quest to become FIFA President. Not to do so would only further alienate those in Europe who had given their backing to Germany. The alternative candidate was Sepp Blatter, then General Secretary of FIFA, who was already on record as favouring an African candidate for World Cup 2006.

  10.15  While there were other factors the Football Association had to take into consideration, this report only looks at the issue from a bidding point of view. The FA did all it could to persuade Lennart Johansson to take a more independent line. After all, as FIFA President, would it not be sensible for him to be impartial between England and Germany rather than partisan? Lennart Johansson never accepted this argument and right throughout his election campaign maintained that he was a firm supporter of Germany and would not countenance the English bid. In many ways this was an unwise position for a would-be FIFA President to adopt, as he was not only closing his mind to an English bid, but also to bids from Brazil and Africa. Nevertheless Lennart Johansson would not budge. Nor apparently would his firmest Presidential supporters within UEFA, who continued to adhere to the German cause.

  10.16  The alternative, Sepp Blatter, was not that much easier from the English bid's point of view. True, he was known to favour England over Germany. The Germans were very active in the Johansson campaign and his relations with Germany were not close. That said, he clearly favoured South Africa, or possibly an African alternative, over England.

  10.17  The main difficulty for the English bid was that those who were Blatter's closest supporters were also those that England needed to attract for the World Cup vote. Significant voices on the FIFA Executive, while not endorsing Blatter's aspirations for South Africa and the World Cup, nonetheless firmly supported him for the Presidency. The FA was therefore strongly urged to back Blatter if it wished to find favour with those outside Europe on the FIFA Executive who were increasingly sympathetic to England's case for the World Cup. On a visit to Qatar the Amir himself stressed the importance of voting for Blatter for the Presidency. Jack Warner, the President of CONCACAF did the same and so did the South Americans.

  10.18  While the Football Association may have had other reasons to vote for Johansson, at the end of the day the World Cup issue dominated the Presidential decision. In terms of the World Cup bid it was impossible to be enthusiastic about either candidate. Nonetheless we concluded that Blatter was preferable. Voting for Blatter guaranteed us nothing. However not voting for Blatter would have guaranteed alienating nearly all our potential support outside of Europe and would probably have written England's bid off at a stroke.

  10.19  Looking back, from the bid's point of view, we made the right decision. Sadly, our public support for Sepp Blatter, which many believe was crucial in his election, was not a debt repaid by the FIFA President. Increasingly he became a public advocate of South Africa and many commentators would argue that the way he played his hand towards the end gifted the World Cup to Germany. If he had shown more support for England, after his first choice of South Africa, we might have been in a better position to step in should South Africa fail. As it was, the FIFA President got the least of his favoured options.

The Kelly/Wiseman Crisis

  10.20  Towards the end of 1998 a crisis arose in English football that resulted in the resignation of the Chief Executive, Graham Kelly, and subsequently in the New Year of 1999 the departure of the Chairman of the FA, Keith Wiseman. Much was written about this issue at the time and it is not the job of this report to go over those details here. Suffice it to say that there was a link with the World Cup in that the issue of financial support for the Welsh FA was associated by some with a possible vote by Wales to secure Keith Wiseman a place on the FIFA Executive. Such a place was thought by many, including some powerful FIFA voices, to be crucial in helping England secure the hosting of the World Cup tournament.

  10.21  The huge publicity given to this episode, not just domestically but all over the World, obviously had a bearing on the bid. As it transpired the crisis gave the FA the opportunity for new leadership and this almost certainly helped the bid in the long run. At the time, however, damage was done to the Football Association's reputation and the bid, as the public face of English football abroad, had to contend with the criticism. Shortly afterwards Glenn Hoddle resigned as England Coach. While this in itself had nothing to do with the bid it tended to add to the perception of a crisis in English football. Here was a country bidding to stage the World Cup which had managed to lose a Chief Executive, a Chairman and a national coach in the space of two months. Inevitably questions were being asked overseas about what was going on in English football.

Wembley

  10.22  The building of a new Wembley had been part of England's case for hosting the World Cup from the very start of the campaign. It had been enshrined as one of the "Six Reasons" why England should host the tournament. Here was the World's most famous and best-loved football stadium—the "cathedral of football" and the "venue of legends"—about to be replaced by what everyone anticipated would be the best and most modern football stadium anywhere in the World. What better setting for the World Cup final of 2006?

  10.23  Unfortunately the Wembley story did not run smoothly from the bid's point of view. Having highlighted it as a key part of our case, it was damaging that there were so many problems with the Wembley development throughout the life of the bid. Early timetables were delayed, questions were asked about funding and there were public arguments about athletics tracks. The difficulties reached their height in December 1999 when the campaign was present at the World Cup 2002 Draw at Tokyo in Japan. The potential demise of the Wembley project was headline news in the Japanese English-language newspapers. FIFA Executive Committee members began asking serious questions. It was the culmination of a number of well-publicised problems regarding Wembley. What might be considered normal in the English domestic market as a few teething problems allowed our opponents to suggest that new Wembley might never happen at all. Consequently although Wembley was still a plus for the campaign, it was not the good story that it should have been.

Manchester United and the World Cup Championship

  10.24  In terms of issues that arose that of Manchester United and the World Club Championship will probably always remain the most notorious in the life of the English bid. The issue achieved widespread coverage in the domestic media and resulted in a good deal of criticism of the Football Association and the Government. The Daily Mirror in particular waged a far-fetched but prolonged campaign on the subject. Manchester United's subsequent performance in Brazil, when they disappointed on the pitch, resurrected the issues again in the New Year of 2000.

  10.25  The World Club Championship highlighted a real dilemma that any World Cup bidding nation is likely to face. Demands are made of the bidder, which if met guarantee nothing, but if they are not met almost certainly lead to failure.

  10.26  There had been a similar case in April 1999 when some at home felt England should refuse to participate in England's Under 17 championship in Nigeria. The same arguments were put forward then as with the World Club Championship. FIFA's message was quite simple. Manchester United as Champions of Europe were expected to represent UEFA at the World Club Championship to be held in Brazil in January 2000. Of course, the fact that Manchester United had won the Champions' League in such spectacular style in Barcelona only underlined the importance to FIFA of the club's appearance at the first World Club Championships. Ironically too, if Manchester United failed to appear they would be replaced by the ever-eager Germans who would send Bayern Munich.

  10.27  Here was a country seeking to invite the world of football to England to participate in the World Cup and yet were we prepared to travel overseas to play in an important FIFA tournament in Brazil? If we were not prepared to be good FIFA members and send Manchester United to the first World Club Championship, why should we expect support for our own attempt to host the World Cup? Put in those terms, as it was very forcibly, the FA found itself in a very difficult situation.

  10.28  As the Bid Diary (see para. 8.38) describes, all sorts of possibilities were discussed with Manchester United in June 1999. Ultimately the least bad solution was for Manchester United not to participate in the FA Cup for the 1999-2000 season.

  10.29  Reluctantly this was agreed by all parties, a decision that resulted in much dissatisfaction within the English domestic football scene. Ironically too, it was not a decision that was greeted with much support internationally. Given the enormous sacrifice that was being made by English football in order to send Manchester United to Brazil, we did not reap the rewards as much as we should have done. Sepp Blatter, as FIFA President, could not see the need for Manchester United to leave the FA Cup and gave the FA little support on the issue. Then, the event itself when it came round in January 2000 was a disappointment not least from Manchester United's point of view. Questions were again asked about whether the exclusion from the FA Cup had really been worth it. For the bid the gains were limited, and yet not to have fulfilled the commitment to the World Club Championship would have been catastrophic. If Manchester United had failed to go to Brazil it is hard to see how the bid could have continued.

England Fixtures

  10.30  Another issue that any bidding nation has to face is that of international fixtures. Certainly the Germans were constantly addressing the issue, as were Brazil. The dilemma is really quite simple. Countries bidding for the right to host the World Cup are inevitably constantly requested to play their national team against would-be supporters. Once again, agreeing guarantees nothing but refusal causes great offence.

  10.31  In England's case a very specific request was made by Saudi Arabia to play a fixture at Wembley. England had played in Saudi Arabia ten years before and had been unable to fix the rematch. Later in the bidding process we were under considerable pressure from Malta to participate in the celebration of the Maltese FA's centenary. This request came with some justification as England had established football in Malta 100 years ago. Thailand too came in with a request for England to visit. Korea wanted a fixture. So, ideally did Trinidad and Tobago.

  10.32  In the important world of English domestic football, these requests might seem hard to understand. Surely such countries realise that the English football calendar is far too congested to play friendly matches against them? However, it is not an argument you can deploy if you are trying to persuade those same countries to vote for you for the World Cup. Important football countries such as England, Germany and Brazil come under enormous pressure to meet such requests. Some inevitably receive a polite, but risky, negative response but others simply have to be met.

  10.33  The FA quite rightly felt it could never dictate to its national coach about fixtures. All the bid could do was to put forward such requests and underline the "political" arguments in favour of meeting them. Some we were able to fulfil, others we had to reject.

Comment

  10.34  The above seven issues highlight the key challenges that occurred. The narrative campaign diary identifies other issues that occurred throughout the four years of the bid. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that it was only the English campaign that faced such difficulties. The South Africans, for example, were constantly under pressure, world-wide, on the subject of violence in South Africa. The Germans no doubt faced other difficulties one of which was attracting genuine enthusiasm from outside Europe. But what we have tried to do here is bring to the Committee's attention some of the dilemmas that the English bid faced. These are problems that had a bearing on the outcome and we believe that they are important issues to understand in seeking to comprehend the intricate nature of the World Cup bidding process.


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