SEPP Blatter has barely finished his speech (indeed, it might still be going on as I write this), but the recriminations have already started. Why didn’t England get the 2018 World Cup?
Well, having conducted my own Panorama-style investigation (ie. wearing a trenchcoat and shouting random questions in the vague direction of Zurich), I think I may have uncovered the 10 reasons behind England’s failed bid.
1. The BBC. You can blame the scheduling of the Panorama expose on FIFA. And England 2018 chief executive Andy Anson, the man who is always on the first page of his local phone directory, went as far as to label the BBC ‘unpatriotic’. I understand, though, that it was the BBC’s decision in June this year to cancel Last Of The Summer Wine which really caused anger among the septuagenarians at FIFA. Sepp Blatter is still fuming at being denied his weekly chance to chuckle away at three old men rolling down a hill in a bathtub.
2. The Sun. There was a time when all Britain’s favourite tabloid newspaper had to do was put a picture of Neil Kinnock looking gormless on its front page, and an entire nation could be corralled into voting for five years of John Major. This year, they told us to vote for David Cameron – and his poll rating immediately slipped. Today, the Sun printed an open letter to FIFA containing the sentence: “Football is in our DNA and we believe our nation is best-equipped to host your brilliant tournament.” Note: No country has ever won the right to host a World Cup on the basis of a spurious genetics argument. Rupert, you’re losing your touch.
3. David Cameron. Vladimir Putin proved today that a national leader doesn’t have to turn up for the vote to be a winner. Cameron, a man who couldn’t even win a General Election outright when Gordon Brown handed it to him on a plate, proved that getting votes is not really his strong point after arriving in Zurich to help the England bid. Then again, perhaps he still thinks he can form a coalition with Russia.
4. The snow. Yes, it’s all very well giving a moving presentation telling the world that England could host the World Cup tomorrow. But all any FIFA delegate with a decent-sized satellite dish would need to do is switch on Sky News or the BBC News channel, and they would see a country grinding to a halt because of a few inches of snow. And if it wasn’t snow, it’d be wind, or rain, or leaves bringing us to a halt. God help us if an England World Cup had organised a game at Plymouth on a Sunday night. All it would take is a couple of train delays at Bristol Templemeads and everyone would be stuck in the South West until a week on Tuesday.
5. Charlie Brooker and Elbow. And as moving and emotional as the presentation was, it was very hard for anyone who has ever watched Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe to take it seriously (I believe Jack Warner is a huge fan) after they overlaid it with Elbow’s One Day Like This, the two-minute song that somehow goes on for four-and-a-half minutes. One Day Like This has become the lazy way of injecting emotion into reality documentaries. Brooker skewered this technique perfectly in his programme on the ‘mission doc’ (in which a person or persons go on a ‘journey’ of self-improvement, facing all sorts of obstacles along the way). His footage of a load of blokes urinating on the side of a hill seemed far more dramatic when Elbow’s violins and Guy Garvey’s soaring voice chimed in. One Day Like This says: My documentary footage is insufficiently dramatic, and I’m desperate.
6. England is both too small and too big. Let’s face it, England is the wrong size to host a World Cup. For a winning bid, a country needs to be either massive, like Russia, or absolutely tiny, like Qatar. (Unlucky, USA! Evidently FIFA felt it couldn’t go to two massive countries in a row.) Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium had the right idea, by bonding together with joint bids to make their land mass look bigger. England could have done their bit by joining forces with Wales and Scotland. Alternatively, if they’d wanted to go down the tiny route, they could have followed the coalition government’s policies elsewhere, and concentrated all their resources in the South East. Home Counties 2018 could have been a winner!
7. Milton Keynes. It might have seemed a clever touch to include a town that didn’t exist the last time England hosted a World Cup. (“Look! It’s been so long since we last had it that we’ve invented this whole new town with roundabouts and concrete cows!”) But how can you talk about football being in your DNA (copyright The Sun) when one of the cities in your bid is host to a club formed by destroying another? I’m trying to imagine Baddiel and Skinner, approaching pensionable age, dancing in front of Stadium:MK singing yet again about football coming home. It’s a thought almost as ridiculous as giving the 2022 tournament to Qatar. Oh.
8. Video technology. Surely if we’d brought video technology into the voting process, England would have won. Not sure how, but it seems to be the bleeding answer to every other contentious issue in football these days.
9. ITV4 schedulers. ITV4 had scheduled (in advance) a showing of the James Bond film From Russia With Love to begin within minutes of the vote announcement this afternoon. I don’t know if Sepp Blatter can get ITV4 (I’m sure he’d find a way if he’s a fan of Minder repeats), but it still felt like a coded message to the FIFA delegates. Could they not have shown, I don’t know, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service instead?
10. Nick Clegg. Because it’s always Nick Clegg’s fault.