By Alex Miller
at the Leaders in Football Conference, London
7 October 2010
Mohamed bin Hammam, the Fifa ExCo member from Qatar and one of football’s major political figures, has said today that a lack of clear judging criteria may mean Fifa fails to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to the nations with the best bids.
Speaking today at the Leaders in Football conference in London, bin Hammam, also President of the Asian Football Confederation, said he was “not 100 per cent sure the best bids will win”, and in a further extraordinary implied criticism of Fifa, said the 2022 hosts shouldn’t be decided this December, but in 2016
He said: “[The selection of hosts] depends on public relations and how the countries sell their product and who has the better marketing talent than the others. There are no written criteria to follow. All nine candidates [for 2018 and 2022] have their strong points and weak points and we will have to make a judgement on how the people will market themselves.’
The 24 ExCo members will decide the hosts for the two World Cups – the first time two finals host nations have been decided at the first time – on 2 December. The experiment to announce two host nations together was made to allow host nations extra time to generate more revenues.
However, bin Hammam added that announcing the 2022 World Cup so early may not be the best solution, saying “… 2022 is a long time away and we don’t know what will happen in a host nation in 12 years time. The 2022 hosts should be decided in 2016.”
Fifa’s ExCo vice-president Dr Chung Mong-Joon also suggested the idea wasn’t working. “Fifa and the bidders are finding it hard to deal with the situation. Ultimately it is too early to tell if it was a good idea, it may take years for us to see.”
He added that reports that China has expressed interest in hosting the 2026 World Cup if an Asian country didn’t host the previous tournament were false. “China has denied the authenticity of the report and I am happy to hear that.”
There were fears China’s statement of intent would jeopardise any Asian bids for 2022, but Dr Chung said he and a number of Fifa colleagues actually suspected a rival bidder had started the rumour “as wishful thinking”. He added that any bidder found to have started the rumours would be “yellow or red carded” from bidding.
Dr Chung gave the strongest indication yet that he could challenge Sepp Blatter for Fifa’s presidency next year.
He denied he was already planning to contest the leadership, saying: “I have not thought of that seriously” but he added: “There is a first time for everything. An organisation needs to be in good health and a leadership competition can keep it healthy.
“Competition may come from Asia and other continents. Bin Hammam has said he will not challenge, but I think there is a chance he will.”
Blatter’s 12-year reign so far – four or eight years were expected and Blatter is already 74 – have cemented his reputation as a man who will not be shifted easily, and his vice-like grip on global political matters (albeit pertaining to football) have led to him being coined (though never within his earshot) the “Robert Mugabe of football administrators”.
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