Australia’s World Cup bids – acknowledge the ‘negatives’

Only a few more weeks and we will know whether Australia will host the 2022 World Cup. Let’s me state my opinion about this right now. I think it would be fantastic if we were going to host it and I really hope that FIFA will give us the nod in December. For a football fans the pluses are so many. The boost to the sport in the country being the major one. That’s my heart talking, but I also know that rationally we are really up against it, and that perhaps rationally is not going to be the panacea to Australia as a whole that we may want it to be.

The first thing is, are we really going to get it? The fact is that money talks. Huge events are big money spinners for sponsors, TV networks etc. We know that even the supposedly ‘pure’ International Olympic Committee mandate is to encourage “endeavor to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace” the bidding for the Olympics is fierce and subject to politicking and ‘encouragements’. For an much more commercial organisation such as FIFA the lure of the big bucks is probably even more of a factor. Let’s say that at this stage Qatar and Japan/Korea are not our main competitors (although the Qatar bid is impressive) and the USA is, dispassionately, if you were not barracking for Australia, wouldn’t you say that the USA has the advantage? The biggest economy in the world, a population much bigger than Australia, much closer to the traditional powerhouses of football (Europe and South America). Also unlike the previous time when the USA hosted the World Cup in 1994 the local competition is very healthy and attracting more and more people, wouldn’t the FIFA that for years has tried to crack the USA market take the opportunity to capitalise on this?

Also there are dispassionate experts (that have no ties to other codes) that state that overall getting the World Cup is not all that is cracked out to be. The senior economic writer for The Age, Tim Colebatch writes:

AS AUSTRALIA finalises its bid to stage soccer’s World Cup, the International Monetary Fund has published an article arguing that the economic benefits of big sports events are negligible, while the costs tend to be far heavier and long-lasting. Drawing on evidence from the Sydney Olympics, among other events, US economist Andrew Zimbalist concluded that the economic gains from staging big sporting events are ”modest to non-existent”.

Last Saturday, Richard Tomlinson, who holds the chair in urban planning at the University of Melbourne, and is the co-author of Development and Dreams: The Urban Legacy of the 2010 Football World Cup wrote an article also in The Age titled: Lucky the country that loses its Cup bid. In the article he writes:

Australia will find better things to do with its money if it fails to win soccer’s World Cup hosting rights……..So why bother to host the World Cup? Events such as these have been the subject of considerable independent scrutiny and it has consistently been demonstrated that the claimed economic costs and benefits of hosting to a country are misrepresented.

The costs are understated and increase markedly over time. These are costs to a country’s economy as capital is allocated from more productive uses, for example public transport, to less productive uses such as stadiums that also entail long-term operating losses.

So what is it that we might gain? Examining the Australiabid.com website, the closest I came to an explanation is that it would be ”a catalyst for an explosion of emotion for more than 22 million . . . relaxed, friendly, engaging and carefree” Australians.

Lucky is the country that loses a World Cup bid.

The other issue (which has been canvassed elsewhere) is whether the FFA is concentrating too much on the bid at the expense of the A-League, which arguably is more important for the long term benefit of the game as a whole. Lest me cite a rugby friendly journalist like Mike Colman, but may he have a point when he writes that:

Those who really care about round ball football in this country – the ones who put their hard-earned down at the A-League turnstiles each week – must wince every time they see that slick, expensive, hi-tech ad for the 2022 bid. The $45 million being spent on it could so better go to a campaign to promote the A-League and establish a permanent ladder between the hundreds of thousands of youngsters who play the game and the local professional league.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Australia also has plenty of advantages. The proximity to Asia which is a booming market is very important. Also one thing that I don’t think that has been stressed enough is that because Australia has had most of its migration post-war, (while the USA has had many migrants before then and have absorbed the mainstream American culture that hasn’t football as a priority) there are plenty of Australians which have heritage where football is the main sport. Geelong is a potential venue if we win the bid. Do you image if Croatia qualified and they play there? Considering the large number of people in the Geelong area with Croatian background the place would be jumping. Also there is no question that Australia is undoubtedly one of the most competent countries in the world to host any major sporting event. FIFA can sleep happily at night knowing that everything will be ready to go an will run smoothly well before the kickoff at the first match if we get to host the World Cup. I also believe that even the most soccerphobes will be welcoming to overseas fans.

James K. Feibleman said that “some good can be derived from every event is a better proposition than that everything happens for the best, which it assuredly does not.
. We can apply this for the World Cup bid. Some good will come out of it (especially for our code) however we must recognise the forces that are against it and the perhaps not everything coming out of it is necessarily good.

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