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Friday, 3 December 2010

World Cup 2018 and 2022 - The shifting sands of global politics

The World Cup went to Russia and Qatar for partly because it hasn't been to those areas before but there are three other reasons - each with significant repercussions for global politics and economics. The Freedom of the press, location of natural resources and the consequences of an indebted West and cash-flush 'Rest' were laid bare yesterday.

1)  The results of the bids for 2018 and 2022, and especially 2018, were in inverse correlation to press freedom in that country. I would bet quite a fair amount that for the next 8 years any Russian journalist who investigates or questions FIFA will find themselves on  'holiday' in Siberia. One of the most fascinating items I read about the problems those on the FIFA committee had with the machinations of the English Press was that they assumed the criticisms of them came directly from the UK government because in many of their countries the government IS the press. In particular, their understanding of the independence of the BBC is limited so trying to explain that it isn't merely a mouthpiece of the government would be very difficult. If the World Cup came to England, the FIFA committee would expect 8 years of extreme scrutiny, and the likelihood is that their behaviour doesn't stand up to even the smallest amount of scrutiny so going to Russia and Qatar made a lot of sense. For instance, the World Cup in England would generate a lot of profit for FIFA, but they demand that any income they make during the World Cup is tax free. In a time of cuts and deficits this would not have looked good.

2) Russia is the World's largest exporter of natural gas. Qatar is the World's third largest exporter of natural gas. The World is becoming more and more dependent on natural resources as it develops and FIFA seems to have recognised the importance of this.

3) Global political power is now officially on the move. From the heavily indebted importers of the West to the cash-rich exporters of the Near, Middle and Far East. This is the clearest sign yet that the creditor is King now.

Going back to number 1. I have no problem with the accusation that the BBC and the media "lost" us the World Cup. Good. I'd rather lose the bid honestly than win it because I offer FIFA 12 years of protection from tax and press scrutiny. If the BBC had been pressured into moving their Panorama investigation and we'd won it would have been a dirty win. At the end of the day, the UK may have had the best bid, but 'best' is just different now.

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