Here’s a tongue-in-cheek suggestion for Australia’s troubled World Cup campaign
Australia’s bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022 is looking more and more problematic. But how about this as the ideal solution to put the show back on the main road towards decision day next December: billionaire Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy might consider staging the opening match and Final at Wembley.
Just as FIFA insiders talk of an “African solution” regarding 2010, albeit less freely now than before, a revolutionary “English solution” would guarantee worldwide headlines and fall in line with the Australians’ new bidding strategy.
London sport and communications consultancy Square1 Sports has been contracted to bolster the “advocacy team and help build the international profile of the bid”, while Joanna Burns, a founding partner of UK consultancy Alexander Ross, has been named “to manage overseas events and coordinate the international communications and relations aspects of the bid from London”.
Almost too late the Australians have realised that much politicking within FIFA is Euro-centred and they have been missing out. Thus they were slow to deal with the controversial issue of stadia-sharing, with other Australian sports resisting the concept of a month-long shutdown in their own regular seasons to accommodate what is a rival for sporting attention.
Failing to nail the inside track with FIFA is not a failing of which the Russians can be accused. Twice already FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been welcomed to Moscow – first by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last October and, most recently, by President Dmitry Medvedev while attending a pre-season tournament.
The Russians were also among the swarm of bidders in Angola at the closing stages of the African Nations Cup and touching base with FIFA executive members at the African confederation’s congress in Luanda.
Joining their bid advisers is Vyacheslav Koloskov – for years the former Soviet Union’s FIFA vice-president – as well as Markus Siegler, a former FIFA director of communications. The Russians’ communications strategy is already being led by Andreas Herren, who was for years himself a senior fixture in FIFA’s media department.
All of this suggests that pressures are gathering, better late than never maybe, to award 2018 to Europe, even though UEFA has yet to unveil a formal lobbying strategy of its own on behalf of its bidders.
That would leave 2022 at the bidding mercy of Australia, the United States, the semi-committed Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, plus the intriguing outsiders from Qatar.
No one could accuse the Qataris of a lack of commitment. They have been busy bringing more ambassadors on board, notably Bora Milutinovic.
The ultimate “citizen of the World Cup”, Milutinovic, who is now 65, has coached a record five different nations at the finals: Mexico as hosts in 1986, Costa Rica in 1990, USA as hosts in 1994, Nigeria in 1998 and China in 2002. He has also bossed Al Sadd in Qatar and – at short notice – Iraq in the Confederations Cup in South Africa last summer.
They could provide very awkward opposition, and that’s why it struck me that the Australians might opt for an “English solution” – the new Wembley was, after all, designed and built by an Australian company.