Who are best to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups?
In nine days' time, 22 men from around the planet will be sequestered in a room in Zurich where they will decide the direction of the World Cup until the year 2022.
To place in context the gravity of their exercise, by nightfall on December 2, the next round of World Cup bidding will be for the 2026 tournament, a time so ridiculously far in the future that Newcastle United could have won multiple Premier League championships by then and Sir Alex Ferguson might even be contemplating retirement.
The voting body was 24 a week ago, but that was before the gentlemen from Tahiti and Nigeria were suspended by Fifa for their apparent willingness to be bribed. And just when we thought the expression "Fifa ethics committee" was an oxymoron.
Thus, we may be going out on a particularly frail limb as we proceed with the notion that the remaining electors will vote in a manner they deem best for the future of the game, rather than their personal finances.
We might envision those 22 wide-eyed idealists (who include Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, and Jack Warner, the Fifa vice-president) wrestling manfully with their weighty decisions. Whom to support in 2018 from England, Holland-Belgium, Russia and Spain-Portugal? Whom to support in 2022 from Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea and the United States?
Fret not, ye worthies. Choose your criteria, what matters most in casting your vote, and by following our guide you may be led to righteousness.
We should award 2018 and 2022 to the best footballing nations on the ballot.
The correct vote: England and South Korea. Why England? Masters of the game, the most popular national league in the world, no World Cup since 1966. Why South Korea? It has had the most World Cup success of the 2022 bidders (semi-finals, 2002; seven consecutive appearances) and football is the most popular sport in the country, which three of its competitors cannot claim. (Really. Look at the 2022 list again.)
We should think outside the box, like we did when we voted for South Africa. This is about spreading the joy.
The correct vote: Russia and Australia. Why Russia? No European nation east of Germany and Italy has hosted the World Cup. Why Australia? The Antipodes are the only continent the World Cup has never visited.
We should consider the fans in the stands and their on-the-ground experience. Well, and having a good time ourselves.
The correct vote: Spain-Portugal and Australia. Why Spain-Portugal? Do you know anyone who has ever regretted spending time in the Iberian peninsula? Why Australia? Do you know anyone who ever regretted spending time Down Under? (Actually, after the vote the whole executive committee may go on holiday in Spain or Oz.)
We should support the nations with infrastructure and stadiums already in place and not just promised.
The correct votes: England and the US. Why England? Which of 18 trains to Manchester would you prefer to ride? Why the US? Which of 40 gigantic venues would you prefer to play in?
Choosing continent-sized nations as hosts introduces too much time in planes and trains. Let's choose compact.
The correct vote: Holland-Belgium and Qatar. Why Holland-Belgium? Because the two nations together are 25 per cent smaller than the UAE. Why Qatar? Because it is 85 per cent smaller than Holland-Belgium, and because nearly the whole of the World Cup would take place in one city.
I believe we owe it to the sport to support the bidders with histories of organisational prowess.
The correct vote: England and Japan. Why England? They ran the world's most far-flung empire; they can do a 64-match football tournament. Why Japan? A country that never misses a deadline and has a pedigree for making fine cars.
Without players, we have no game. Which bidders have climates most conducive to running 10km in two hours?
The correct vote: England or Holland-Belgium and Qatar. Why England or Holland-Belgium? Mild months of June and July. Why Qatar? Because despite concerns about summer heat in the Gulf, the whole tournament would be played indoors.
We must take into account television and advertisers and the potential live audience. Which bidders will lure the most eyeballs in real time?
The correct vote: England and Qatar. Why England? Greenwich Mean Time puts 4pm and 9pm World Cup kick-off times at a viewable hour in all of Europe, Africa and the Americas. Why Qatar? The times work for all of Europe and Africa, much of Asia and South America and the most populated part of North America.
We are practical men who did not rise to the executive committee by being mavericks. What does that tell us about this process?
The correct vote: Whomever Blatter is voting for.
Published: November 23, 2010 04:00 AM