How to remove bribery from FIFA’s World Cup selection process

I’ve been hooked. The first three weeks of this World Cup has featured some of the most brilliant and exciting soccer ever played. However, in the back of my mind I’m still thinking about Qatar hosting a World Cup. Seriously, after watching players struggle to play in the heat and humidity of Brazil, is FIFA still planning on holding a World Cup in the much hotter Qatar? Even after the corrupt voting process where millions of dollars of bribes were used to sway votes to a plan that shouldn’t even been on the table? Even after the known abuses toward a captive migrant workforce?

Playing a World Cup in Qatar is a bad idea. The only thing going for it is that its being played in a region that has never hosted a World Cup. John Oliver makes the case better than I do:

I think we are starting to see how the one country, one host philosophy used the vast majority of the time by traveling sporting events, like the World Cup and Olympics, is becoming too outlandish, outdated, and expensive.

What if FIFA took an outside the box approach to hosting the World Cup?

From what you hear from FIFA, I think its reasonable clear that they have three major objectives they want to see from the host:

  1. Security of the fans: They want anybody that travels to the matches to have a good time and be able to come home safely.
  2. Geographic diversity: This is the opportunity for FIFA to grow the world’s game, so taking it to different parts of the world is still a good idea and part of what makes the World Cup so special.
  3. Ability to host a ton of fans from around the world: Once again they want to ensure its easy for fans to visit and that they can get tickets. This is where their stadium requirements come in.

These are good goals and I don’t think they need to change. I feel they can be achieved through a modified selection process that emphasises the confederations. This is also where I thank my Dutch-born Canadian friend for his discussion on this topic. We figured it out and here’s how it would work:

The five confederations should have greater power in choosing the hosts in a rotating and fair manner. In this method no bidding whatsoever will need to be done. Just like that, the need for bribery is lessened. Here’s how it would work:

Each confederation would choose their hosts from within their Confederation. Yes, I said hosts, plural form. The burden of hosting should not fall on a single nation, but be spread amongst major cities within a continent. In fact, I’d go so far to say that there must be at least three nations used in group stage hosting. This is loosely based on the changes to the Euros that will be in place for their tournament starting in 2020.

This will spread the costs around and allow FIFA to use existing stadiums to host, thus reducing a significant portion of hosting costs and the burden on a single nation.

While travel would appear to go up on the surface, simple changes can be made to group stages so each group can play their matches in a single stadium and city. This will make it easier for fans to attend and ensure each group match is played in similar conditions. The knockout rounds can then start to funnel down to a single group of cities much closer to one another.

It also means that instead of hosting in cities like Manaus, which is in the jungle and has no roads connecting it to the rest of Brazil (and will have an empty stadium after the cup), a CONEMBOL hosted tournament can host matches in Rio, Sao Paulo, Bueno Aires, Montevideo. Places that already have significant infrastructure in place to host. I also think both Montevideo and Buenos Aires are closer to Rio than Manaus and have a better climate too.

Looking at North America, CONCACAF can choose to have a “West Coast World Cup” hosting group stage matches in Mexico City, San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, among others (Phoenix, Guadalajara, Dallas, Calgary, etc).

It also works in Europe, as it will allow major and soccer mad cities like Amsterdam, Brussels, and Copenhagen to host group stage games when typically they come from countries not large enough to singularly host.

The next piece of this is to predetermine a rotation for which confederation hosts. So lets assume FIFA does the right thing and removes the 2022 World Cup from Qatar, it can still be hosted in Asia, and if they wanted in west Asia. Here’s the order I propose, based on previous hosts as well:

  • 2018: Russia (the last single nation to host)
  • 2022: AFC (also known as Austral-Asia)
  • 2026: CONCACAF (North America)
  • 2030: UEFA
  • 2034: CAF (Africa)
  • 2038: CONEMBOL (South America)
  • 2042: UEFA (yes, going to Europe every 3rd world cup makes sense)
  • 2046: Assuming the world still exists, this gets repeated.

To conclude, this solves the bribery issue and brings down hosting costs for a single nation and spreads out the load a bit. I’m not implying this won’t have challenges, fan visas is one, but I’d rather be discussing that issue in 12 years than the integrity of the beautiful game.

I’ve had my say, now what do you say? Would this work?

3 Responses to How to remove bribery from FIFA’s World Cup selection process

  1. I like this idea a lot, more even than the idea of a permanent host. Would this mean doing away with the automatic bid for the host nation(s), given that three or four automatic bids leaves too few to play for?

    • Yes, yes I appeared to overlook the automatic qualifier. Here’s what I propose: the hosting Confederation should receive a ‘Wild Card’ to use as they wish. So if two of the three host nations qualify, the third gets in (looking at you Canada). But if all three qualify or only one of three gets in, I imagine that could create some exciting playoff matches for the final spot.

      And as much as you like this idea, it doesn’t solve the issue of the Olympics, which has different hosting concerns and different facility concerns. I’m still churning on it.

  2. Every Four Years

    I like the idea of co-hosting. Do you think it would be possible to host a World Cup in multiple confederations? Then the West Asian countries could rope in Egypt, Turkey, Algeria, etc. as well.

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