Posted on December 01, 2010

(WFI) England stretches ahead of its rivals with the USA just edging Qatar as the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid race enters the final straight. With just two days until the FIFA vote, the fourth edition of INSIDER's World Cup Bid Power Index reveals our final analysis of the nine bidders.

Despite Spain-Portugal's status as favourite in some quarters, England now boasts a 14-point lead over the Iberian bid in the bid power index, which shows the relative strengths and weaknesses of all the bidders for the two tournaments.

England also enjoys a three-point advantage over Russia, for which some flaws were highlighted in FIFA's evaluation reports.

In the 2022 contest, the USA top the rankings. But Qatar's deficiencies, underscored by FIFA in those inspection dossiers, are countered by its alliance with Spain-Portugal and a PR machine with real momentum heading into the last 48 hours of lobbying.

Ahead of the Dec. 2 vote by the FIFA Executive Committee, the bid power index looks very different from the Sept. 29 edition when Russia was coming back at England and Qatar was sliding out of the reckoning.

The new rankings reflect the conclusions of FIFA's detailed evaluation reports on the bidding nations that were published two weeks ago, along with developments made by the bids and the ups and downs of their campaigns over the past two months.

The rankings are not meant to predict the outcome of the FIFA vote on Dec. 2, but to show the merits and drawbacks of the bidding nations at regular intervals before the decision.

Scored across 10 categories, England gets 70 out of 100 possible points (up 2 points). The USA returns to second spot in the rankings with 68 (up 2 points), with Russia (same as before) and Qatar on 67 (up 2 points). South Korea are on 63 (up 2 points), with Holland-Belgium and Australia on 62 points.

Spain-Portugal and Japan both have sub-60 scores, reflecting the myriad problems associated with their technical bids and the conduct of their campaigns.

The INSIDER Bid Power Index is the only regularly published review of World Cup bids that is based on expert analysis and first-hand contact with the bid nations, including interviews with bid leaders and information and figures from each of the bid launches.

The 10 categories are: bid operations/leadership; wow factor and unique selling points; relations with FIFA Executive Committee members; cost and funding resources; government and public support; international PR; venue plans; security; transport and accommodation; and legacy.

World Football INSIDER - 2018 / 2022 World Cup Bid Power Index - November 30-2010
Bid operation/leadership 6 7 7 7 7 6 5 5 4
Wow factor and USPs 8 6 6 6 5 5 7 5 5
Relation w/ FIFA members 6 7 7 8 8 6 6 9 5
Cost/funding resources 7 7 8 8 5 5 6 5 5
Government/public support 7 6 8 7 6 6 6 5 5
International PR 7 6 6 7 6 6 6 4 6
Venue plans 8 8 8 7 6 7 5 7 7
Security 7 7 6 5 7 7 7 5 5
Transport/Accommodation 7 8 4 5 6 7 7 7 7
Legacy 7 6 7 7 7 6 7 5 6
Bid Power Index Totals 70 68 67 67 63 62 62 56 55
(Note: individual scores out of 10 possible)


England, technically the best bid on paper of the four vying for the 2018 World Cup, appears to be in good shape ahead of the Dec. 2 vote. However, appearances can be deceptive and the alliance between Spain-Portugal and Qatar throws up a very real problem for the bid, which could conceivably go out in the second round of voting - despite its excellence. Since the last bid power index, bid officials have worked hard in trying to gain the acceptance of the FIFA Ex-co. But it's been a rollercoaster two months. The bid was forced to distance itself from the Sunday Times cash-for-votes bid bribery story that led to bans for Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii. Amid fears of a backlash over the British media's expose of corruption at FIFA's top table, senior England bid officials sent a letter to FIFA Ex-co members urging them to vote on the strengths of the bid. England's undignified spat with Russia over remarks made by Alexey Sorokin, in which he appeared to attack London's high crime rates and the country's youth drinking culture, also did the bid no favours. We feel that the bid's handling of the BBC Panorama programme - 'FIFA's Dirty Secrets' - which screened last night was poor. Officials hyped the programme's significance and undermined other key landmarks, particularly the FIFA evaluation reports, when they would have been better advised drawing a line under the issue. England loses a mark for this, while it is downgraded on Ex-co relations as well. But the bid is now back on track and its leaders are doing everything it their powers to bring the World Cup back to England for the first time since 1966. And the campaign has picked up momentum following publication of FIFA's evaluation reports. England emerged stronger than their rivals. We have marked the bid up on security, which FIFA's reports shed more light upon, and legacy, after it received little short of an endorsement in FIFA's cautious lexicon. England also receives a further mark for government support after British prime minister David Cameron announced he would be spending three days lobbying in Zurich ahead of the FIFA vote - an outstanding gesture and, along with David Beckham and master networker David Dein, it's a combined effort that could push England over the line. Despite England's solid bid proposal, a lack of goodwill from 22 cosseted FIFA Ex-co members might also cost the bid its chance of World Cup glory. If the finals go to Spain-Portugal - who produced a bid book that was flawed in many areas and have done to nothing to sell their proposal to anyone but the FIFA Executive Committee - then this is a sad indictment of the bidding process, and will have been won through nepotism, historic alliances and collusion. Russia, England's other main rivals, have at least put up an honourable fight and produced an enticing bid proposal that leans on legacy.


In Ruud Gullit and Harry Been, Holland-Belgium bid have two of the most affable frontmen in the bidding contest. But the joint bid has always been a long shot in a tough field of competitors. Only last week Gullit admitted the bid was a "strong outsider". Last week, Been told INSIDER he was confident the bid could win enough votes to advance beyond the first round of voting. Although the bid has steered a steady course through the scandal-hit months of the bidding race, keeping away from jousting with rivals, the Low Countries will be lucky to book a place in round 2 of voting. There appears to be no great momentum behind the bid, although 'event' surprises are promised in Zurich this week. Gullit and Been were both at Soccerex in Rio de Janeiro last week - where only a couple of FIFA Ex-co men showed their faces - instead of being busy on the lobbying trail like their rivals. Been did meet Brazil's Ricardo Teixeira and told INSIDER bid leaders were getting around FIFA Ex-co members in the final days of the campaign. Johan Cruyff has offered sporadic support for the bid, but Holland's most famous footballing hero will have to do much more in the coming days if the bid is to succeed. The low-key approach suggests the joint bid is either very confident in its proposals - revolving around a compact bid in the heart of Europe - or hoping that controversy attaches itself to one of its rivals in the next 48 hours and Holland-Belgium win some sympathy votes. Lack of government guarantees and accommodation issues were pinpointed as problem areas in the less than glowing assessment of the bid in FIFA's evaluation report. We have marked them up one point on security, which the evaluation reports


The credibility of Russia's bid leadership took a knock last month when Alexey Sorokin's attack on England backfired. England's complaint to FIFA triggered a damage limitation exercise and it was only when sports minister Vitaly Mutko intervened by apologising to England bid chairman Geoff Thompson and CEO Andy Anson that the issue was put to bed. Since that PR gaffe, both Mutko and Sorokin have been operating largely below the radar, quietly working their way through the members of the FIFA executive. Russia tout a different concept to England, seeking virtue in their status as a new World Cup territory

and with an ambitious domestic legacy focused on building new stadiums and extensive football infrastructure for their domestic game. They have waged a good fight and, Sorokin's mis-step aside, a clean one as far as we can see. We have marked Russia up on security, which the FIFA evaluation reports shed more light on - but the country still lags behind some rivals because of concerns about domestic terrorism. FIFA's reports vindicated many areas of the Russian bid, but highlighted transport as "high risk" - just one of two such designations it made among the nine bidders. Notwithstanding the massive construction effort to build venues, FIFA's concerns over the clustering of venues, the modernisation of airports and the readiness of the country’s railway system are issues that could swing the vote away from Russia. The bid loses a point on this. However, Russia stands a good chance of success on Thursday - but much rests on FIFA's willingness to engage with an ambitious, legacy-driven finals over a "safe" one.


Spain-Portugal enters the final days as favourites for 2018, and in doing so symbolises everything that is wretched about this flawed bid process. Unlike any other bid, they have conducted virtually all the bid process behind closed doors. There has been virtually no outreach to international media throughout the entire campaign and the bid leadership have done little to connect with anyone outside of FIFA circles. Some might argue that this the way to go about winning a World Cup but the Iberian bid's failure to open up to public scrutiny shows complete contempt for world football. What bid chiefs have argued in private is a less than brilliant vision for the 2018 finals, and sources who have seen their presentations have sometimes been scathing. FIFA's ethics probe cleared the Iberian bid of collusion with Qatar because of a lack of evidence but suspicions remain - Sepp Blatter virtually opened the door for vote trading between bids following FIFA's emergency executive committee on Nov. 19 when he admitted to reports at a news conference "You can't avoid collusion", referring to the fact that eight of the nine 2018/2022 bidders were represented on FIFA's ruling executive. FIFA's bid evaluations - while giving the bid a "low risk" ranking - were less than complimentary and Spain-Portugal was criticised for lack of detail in several key areas. All three of its rivals boasted fuller and more wide-ranging proposals. We have scored Spain-Portugal down on security - they haven't bothered to come up with a proper security plan - but up on bid leadership because of the charismatic Angel Maria Villar Llona, president of the Spanish football federation. It also gets a point on Ex-co relations. But as with Holland-Belgium, FIFA questions the joint hosting concept. Legacy and football development is also ranked poorly. There will be nothing wrong with an Iberian World Cup, albeit with a bias towards Spain, but the way in which it will have been won leaves much to be desired. The bid team's arrogance and complacency may be penalised in the final stages of lobbying. For the sake of transparency, in future bidding contests that would be no bad thing.


The USA's team in Zurich is bolstered by former US president Bill Clinton and Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, whose charm offensive will provide great support for the bid's facts-and-figures men Sunil Gulati and David Downs. The bid offers FIFA huge commercial potential by making the country a "soccer-loving nation" and promising huge ticket and TV revenues through the duration of the tournament. It fared relatively well in the evaluation reports, and must hope that the issue over guarantees - a constitutional issue - is not misread. FIFA also drew attention to the USA's climate issues - saying “Extreme weather is not uncommon”. A late $2 million funding boost from Major League Soccer and a public funding drive sees its cost-funding resources score bumped up. We have also marked the US up on security, which the inspection report casts in a positive light. The USA have been quietly effective these past two months, with all the noise being about Qatar's alleged collusion with Spain-Portugal and Gulf state's heat issues and logistical issues. We think they are slight favourites, although for a variety of reasons none of the Asian candidates, barring perhaps Japan, can be discounted.


What a story Qatar's has been, particularly over the past two months when they have gone from something of a novelty bid, ranked by many as outsiders, to odds-on bookmakers favourites to host the 2022 finals. Their hand has arguably been strengthened by the collusion allegations and saying nothing has been - oddly - a PR masterstroke. The more that people talk about Qatar, the more it has come to be considered a real contender. For this, and AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam's support, we have marked them up 1 point on bid operation and leadership. Arguably, Bin Hammam has done more for the bid - largely through the publicity generated by his frequent blog posts - than bid CEO Hassan Al-Thawadi in recent weeks. The Gulf state's bid also wins a mark on relations with FIFA Ex-co members. Whether a deal with Spain-Portugal merits collusion or not, we think it's likely to happen and will possibly be crucial given the problems with a number of technical aspects of Qatar's bid. Qatar emerged better off in the evaluation reports than the "high risk" designation suggested. But with question marks hanging over the much-hyped stadium cooling technologies, transport plans and team training proposals, for which we have marked Qatar down, it could easily lose support from under-pressure Ex-co members. Despite carrying huge momentum into the final hours of the campaign, if the oil-rich nation landed the 2022 tournament it will be considered among the biggest shocks in the history of football. "Expect Amazing" is the rather clunky bid slogan - but we think a lot of people might need to be prepared to expect to be amazed.


Much under-rated and masters of the courtroom politics that divide up world football's spoils, only a fool would write off Korea's World Cup bid - which is what many observers have done. A UK bookmaker last week gave South Korea longer odds than even the hapless Japan bid! The significance of its global fund, which divides up $777 million over 11 years and targets key voting areas, such as CONCACAF, is hugely significant but largely overlooked. So too is the massive sponsorship deal between Hyundai - owned by the family of FIFA vice president, Chung Mong-joon - and FIFA that was announced last week. Sepp Blatter was in Seoul meeting President Lee Myung-Bak just weeks before the FIFA vote and Chung has met the FIFA president on a number of occasions over the past two months. We think he is using his FIFA presidency ambitions asa trump card - but will he sacrifice them in favour of a Korean finals? Chung has given mixed messages over whether he will stand against Blatter in next May's presidential elections. Rising tensions between South Korea and North Korea following the North's artillery attack on the island of Yeonpyeong last week may have harmed the bid's proposals - which seem a little far-fetched - to use football as a tool to help unite the two countries and bring peace to the peninsula by 2022. We have marked Korea up 1 because of the Chung factor and up 1 for security as a result of the largely favourable evaluation report. We think Korea's best chance is if it squeezes past Japan and Australia in the first two rounds and Ex-co members consider them a more palatable option than the controversial Qatar bid.


Without Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Zurich this week, the southern hemisphere bid is relying on the clout of Frank Lowy and Ben Buckley. Her no-show will be noticed and is an ill-conceived move which sends out a bad message to FIFA - either she can't be bothered travelling, or doesn't want to be tainted by failure. The bid came out reasonably well from the FIFA evaluations, which overlooked some of the problems that it has suffered this year - notably with the football codes of Australian Rules and National Rugby League - and the fact that many of its stadia are devoted to other ball sports. Both those codes are still refusing to suspend their seasons for the duration of the World Cup; lack of accommodation is one of the most glaring flaws noted in the inspection reports. But Australia has avoided many of the brickbats that have been thrown around the past few months. However, it may suffer as a result of the Sunday Times sting. Banned FIFA Ex-co member Reynald Temarii was the one nailed-on vote it could rely upon. Unless FIFA approves the Oceania confederation's request to parachute acting OFC president David Chung on to the Ex-co in place of Temarii, Australia will likely be fighting a losing battle in the next two days. With Bin Hammam and Chung Mong-joon big hitters in their proverbial backyard, it's difficult to see where Australia's support is going to come from. Australia's bid campaign started out so well and, in its proposals, it provides an appealing new territory for FIFA to stage a fantastic World Cup - the two-week party that was the Sydney 2000 Olympics is a not too distant memory. But the bid never really recovered from the loss of key personnel earlier this year and ruinous disputes with other football codes. If Australia gets through the first two rounds - and it is a big if - it could emerge as a compromise candidate. There's no doubting that Australia would put on a good show and boost the development of the sport there and be a useful platform for growth in Asia. But it remains a long shot.


Japan's stuttering campaign has gained some momentum in past months with the elevation of FIFA Ex-co member Junji Ogura to the role of bid chairman. But it's too little too late and the 2002 co-host remains a rank outsider in the 2022 race well behind its rivals. It failed to build a PR campaign around its hi-tech bid plans presented to Sepp Blatter in May - which detailed innovative plans to broadcast matches in 3D at 400 Fan Fests spread across FIFA's 208 member countries. Had it done so, this fascinating plan - ahead of its time in 2010, but an interesting initiative 12 years hence - would be more well known and Japan would be further up the rankings. As it stands, its rivals have raced ahead and left Japan standing. FIFA's evaluation reports were strong on technical aspects - we have marked Japan up on venue plans and transport/ accommodation - but the bid fell well short on government guarantees. FIFA was scathing about these oversights. With no government big hitters expected in Zurich, Japan has too much ground to make up. We struggle to see a scenario of them getting past the first two rounds, never mind winning it.

By INSIDER's Mark Bisson and James Corbett