England’s bid to host World Cup 2018 has been dogged by scandal, controversy and political infighting, often obscuring the bid’s football credentials despite regular praise from FIFA for the bid’s technical properties and financial potential.
The England bid team released a statement branding the Panorama programme a ‘disgrace to the BBC’, while bid chief executive Andy Anson said: “We would be naive if we didn’t think those things have an impact. It’s about understanding the impact, using the information and using your ability to act on that information accordingly.” He added: “I’m disappointed with the timing and it’s certainly not going to win us any votes.” The Sunday Times revelations led to two senior FIFA figures being suspended for bribery while Lord Triesman resigned from the FA and the bid team after accusing Spain and Russia of colluding to bribe referees.
A late boost may have come England’s way, however, in the shape of a glowing financial report that rated the England bid ahead of each of its rivals at providing revenue for FIFA. The report by management consultants McKinsey, titled FIFA’s World Cup Host Candidate Assessment, gave England full marks – 100% – with Spain/Portugal, Netherlands/Belgium and Russia trailing. The report considered five revenue streams – sponsorship, ticketing, hospitality, licensing and media rights – and the likelihood of each bid reaching FIFA’s stated targets – England received a 100% rating in each category, the only bid to do so. The full report will be considered by the FIFA executive committee on Wednesday.
The findings of McKinsey appear to back up the figures contained in England’s bid book. The document claims $897m in projected ticket revenue, with the lowest ticket price of $60 (£40), a projected $400m in-stadium hospitality profit and 28m people visiting the two FIFA Fan Fests per host city – more than FIFA requirements. The bid book also boasts an investment in grass roots football of $1.1bn (£750m) and the construction of an International Centre for Disability Football. It goes on to promise the creation of 4.5m new young players, 20 000 referees and 100 000 coaches.
England also received a praiseworthy bid evaluation from FIFA – almost every guarantee required by FIFA was already in place at the time. It noted a low risk to FIFA after two high risk World Cups – South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 – but also raised minor concerns over hotel prices and room availability. The bid was also judged to meet FIFA’s requirements for international accessibility, communications, social development and environmental protection. The World Cup’s status as a protected event in England – one that cannot be shown exclusively on subscription television – was regarded as a negative, but that legislation will be reviewed in 2013.