World Cup losers cry foul after Russia, Qatar triumph
Zurich: FIFA faced calls for radical reform Friday after defeated challengers vented their anger over its decision to stage the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups in Russia and Qatar.
After a bitter bidding war tainted by corruption claims, questions were asked over how Russia would pay for the tournament and how teams would fare in Qatar`s searing summertime heat.
As even President Barack Obama joined the backlash after the United States missed out on the 2022 tournament, the head of the English bid for 2018 said the current decision-making process was unsustainable.
The decisions were made in a secret ballot at FIFA`s Zurich headquarters on Thursday among the 22 members of its executive committee.
"I would say right now don`t bother (bidding) unless you know the process is going to change," England bid supremo Andy Anson told a news conference Friday in Zurich. "When there are only 22 guys that gives them too much influence."
The build-up to the vote was marred by allegations in the British media about corruption among the executive committee members which led to two of them being suspended.
Despite the English team`s bid to distance themselves from the allegations, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described them as concerted smears and Anson revealed that FIFA head Sepp Blatter had warned about the "evils of the media" to the 22 voters just before Thursday`s ballot.
Obama also rapped FIFA for choosing Qatar over the United States.
"I think it was the wrong decision," the US president told reporters.
There was widespread astonishment at Qatar`s victory -- a tiny Gulf kingdom whose team have never qualified for the World Cup and where temperatures hit 43 degress Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) in June when the tournament is staged.
Along with the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia all tabled bids for 2022.
Football Federation Australia`s Jack Reilly said its 2022 bid had fallen victim to FIFA politics and Qatar`s deep pockets. "The Qatar delegation have been pushing money around for a long period of time," he said.
Qatar`s win came despite serious reservations being raised by a FIFA technical report about the logistical problems of staging the football tournament in the Gulf during the searing heat of the summer months.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who had backed the England bid, said the FIFA voting system was simplistic and open to suspicion.
"It looked to me a little bit of a Middle Age way to decide. You would like to have much more technical criteria than human criteria," he said.
Russia`s victory had been more widely predicted, and its bid chief Alexei Sorokin rejected accusations of collusion between some countries and some of the 22 members of FIFA`s executive members.
"We did not find any spirit or atmosphere of collusion. We are grateful to all FIFA members who supported us," said Sorokin, who also rejected any concerns over security.
The Russian victory over England and joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium prompted scathing press reaction, particularly in Britain.
"Russia, a mafia state rotten to the core with corruption; Qatar a medieval kingdom with no freedom of speech; Both are swimming in oil money," the tabloid Daily Mirror splashed across its front page.
There was a similar reaction from the Spanish press with the centre-right El Mundo running the headline: "The power of gas and oil."
After skipping the actual vote, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin jetted into Zurich late Thursday to promise the a top-notch event.
"A 2018 World Cup will be up to the highest standards, new modern stadiums will be built in time and to perfection," Putin said.
Russian media questioned whether the cost of staging the tournament was acceptable as the country is on track to record a 4.6 percent deficit this year and already has a commitment to other extravagant projects such as the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 which have gone way over budget.