SBD/December 16, 2010/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Chuck Blazer Discusses FIFA's Voting Process For World Cup Hosts

CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer, the only American on FIFA’s Exec Committee, said at the start of the ’18 and ’22 World Cup bid process, “no one took Qatar’s bid seriously and the U.S. was more focused on Australia,” according to Jack Bell of the N.Y. TIMES. But Blazer said as “time went on, Qatar’s ascendancy grew.” Blazer sat for a Q&A, and the following are excerpts from the interview.

Q: There were some eyebrows raised over your early support for and subsequent vote for Russia. And apparently you were quite impressed during your inspection tour. What tipped the balance for you?

Blazer: First of all, Europe had four pretty good bids, not one was a dog, four very different bids. I felt in the end, the bid from Spain and Portugal in 2018 might still be facing some economic issues given what [is] going on in those two countries. They have facilities that need work. … In Russia, what was intriguing aside from development issues surrounding the stadiums -- what became clear is that there is an economy that 20 years ago started to build new structures. … What I learned during [a] trip is that there is a true commitment to resources. In Sochi for the Olympics, there are projects going on, about $30 billion worth of work. New roads, stadiums, facilities. They are all far enough along so that it’s not just pie in the sky. I saw their plan and have a certainty it will be fulfilled. … From my perspective they will get the job done and done well. As the chairman of FIFA’s TV committee and a member of the marketing advisory board, I got a good view of how the sponsors would be impacted. It’s an important emerging market to all sponsors, a secure country that will be building more stadiums that will increase the level of activity inside the football society in Russia. There’s life in Russia.

Q: Where do we, the U.S., go from here?

Blazer: Getting the World Cup would have helped speed up the process and the progress. But in the end, we will make that progress with or without the World Cup. Part of the problem injected into the [bid] process were elements that weren’t clear or that had been there before. This talk about legacy. Do you want to go where you can have the best World Cup possible? Then the best answer is England and the U.S. But somewhere along the line, the legacy feature got interjected. To some extent, it’s not fair, just to be looking at opening up new areas.

Q: Was this process, the awarding of two tournaments simultaneously, the best way to do it?

Blazer: I don’t know. We need to look at it and discuss it. In retrospect, awarding two together is not a good idea. When we made [the] decision for South Africa, the economics were uncertain. So the idea to sell two by bundling them seemed like a good idea at the time to lock in things. This became an environment where deal making became prevalent and I think everyone recognizes that this probably was not a good idea (NYTIMES.com, 12/15).

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