Ah, the Commonwealth not associated with hockey pucks and moose.
Where God deigns to play football and where journalists go to find true love. Australia—the Outback—awaits the decision of Fat Sepp and His Crooked Table on whether they will award the 2022 World Cup to the Oceania region for the first time.
Sure, technically Australia is a member of the Asian Football Confederation, but the nation does reside in the Oceania region geographically and was a member of the Oceania Football Confederation until 2006.
Who is Bidding?
Australia has the standard group of monied business people and politicians to handle the little technicalities of actually submitting a bid—you can stare at their ugly mugs here. What you really want to know about the Aussies’ bid though—who are the celebrities?
This follows in the wake of the “No Worries” video narrated by Nicole Kidman that was released last December prior to the World Cup 2010 draw. Kidman might be back to star in a rumored half-hour film that includes Hugh Jackman, Ian Thorpe, and others at the formal presentation.
Obviously, Australia knows what Sepp likes–women in tight clothing and actors like himself. Here’s betting he gets a special copy of the Matildas’ Calendar.
What are they offering?
Quite frankly, the Aussies go for the bare minimums when it comes to their plan. They propose to host the matches at the FIFA minimum of 12 venues in 10 cities. Of the 12 stadia, 9 already exist and are to be renovated whilst 3 new ones will need to be built.
What, they couldn’t renovate a stadium in Wollongong instead? Oh, maybe by 2022, that quidditch league will need it for the Warriors home matches.
Of the cities, all but Perth run the length of the southeastern coastline, which grants Sepp the ability to multi-city schmooze with ease. Perth—the 4th most populated area in Australia—is orphaned on the southwestern coast, so Sepp will have to hop the executive jet and fly over AN ENTIRE FLIPPIN’ CONTINENT to pick up his graft swag.
Australia also comes in at the minimums when it comes to the number of FIFA required venue-based team training sites (48), team hotels (24), team home bases (64) and hotels (64). They come in around 17000 short for the number of hotel rooms under contract but feel confident they will make the required minimum here of 60000.
Australia projects to spend $535.2 million on the 2021 Confederations Cup and World Cup jointly. The Aussies also guarantee to sell just a shade over 3 million tickets.
Also, these numbers just seem to be hogwash. Considering that South Africa spent around $4 billion for the 2010 Cup, Vancouver spent over $1 billion just on security for the Winter Olympics, and Athens burned through $11 billion for the 2004 Summer Olympics, the $535 million projected by Australia is below minimum. Granted, it does not have as much to build as South Africa did, but if Vancouver had to drop that much just on security, numbers in the hundreds of millions are rather dubious.
Oh wait, it’s also including a $2.9 billion budget for building the new stadiums and renovating the others. See—that $535 million expenditure number’s already poppycock.
Further, projected tickets for World Cup 2010 were expected to be just a shade over 3 million—familiar?—then dropped to 2.9 million, then still weren’t completely sold. Again, there were several other factors that affected South Africa’s inability to sell out its venues that will likely not be in play for Australia, but this is another bid number not to be taken at face value.
Besides, you don’t have to travel to Australia just to pick up a Vegemite sandwich, do you?
No, what Australia is really offering is experience and a “no worries” World Cup. Having hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne—two projected host venues—along with the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the Aussies know how to orchestrate large sporting spectacles. It has most of the required infrastructure in place after recent builds for those two international games along with a good backbone of the transport logistics necessary to move teams and fans in and out of venues.
It even has a swanky opera house for Sepp to reign in during the group selections bonanza. Forget Charlize Theron—Australia can have Naomi Watts telling us who’s in the Group of Death.
Given that those previous hosting duties took place in a more media-centric age, the Aussies boast that they have the information and communications technology FIFA requires along with legal regulations to protect FIFA’s media rights, i.e. its revenue streams. Sepp just got a little weepy.
Also, Australia has been upgrading its footie knowledge since 2005–the inaugural season of the A-League. While rugby is still top dog in the Outback, the Football Federation of Australia—FFA—will have been running a premier football league in Australia for a while by the time 2022 comes around and the experience will be another feather in the Aussies’ cap.
So, to sum up the offering for Australia 2022: Boobs and Experience. Or experienced boobs; whatever your take may be. No worries Mate!
What are FIFA saying?
When the Nicole Kidman video was shown last year, it was said that FIFA officials found her curves—I mean her message—appealing. Recently, Blatter himself noted that the lack of controversy surrounding Australia’s bid was a positive. His warm relationship with the Australian Prime Minister–Julia Gillard–is also rumored to bode well for the Outback Crew.
German legend Franz Beckenbauer—a voting member on the Executive Committee—voiced his support to the Australian bid as he announced his retirement from said board. In fact, Der Kaiser has been singing the praises of an Aussie World Cup since last year.
However, when Blatter recently gave Australia’s hopes a boost in that interview, he also noted that Australia has no voting member on the board to feed grapes into his open mouth. Also, his gal-pal Gillard has pulled out of attending the presentation.
The FFA will just have to throw some more money at a dancing Seppsis then.
And that’s exactly what the FIFA Executive Report summarized had to be done for the Aussie bid. With Australia being in a timezone unfavorable to prime time broadcasting to Europe—the most lucrative TV market for FIFA—the report noted that, “Should the FIFA World Cup be hosted in Australia, there is a risk of a reduction in TV income and, as a result, commercial revenue from Europe and the Americas. The income from Asia and Oceania would need to be increased substantially…”
Sepp stopped packing his boomerang for his Outback adventure when he read that.
Also included in FIFA’s summary was a concern over the sheer size of Australia. With some of the venues too far to drive between—it’s a 5 hour flight across from the most of the host cities to Perth—there could be a potential snag in FIFA being able to move its officials’ bloated carcasses efficiently between venues. [Ed. Note: This was a problem in the knockout rounds in South Africa, with fans unable to get to semi-final games due to overbooked flights]
And it slows them down in being able to get away with more of the Aussies’ money before they notice it’s missing.
So, in summary, FIFA rates Australia as a low risk host in many respects but worries that there is a potential for revenue loss due to the timezone issue and the lengthy travel times between host cities. The nation doesn’t have a board member horsetrading for votes as the head of its confederation—Mohamed Bin-Hammam—has already publicly thrown his vote to Qatar or “another Asian country” if Qatar is out of the running.
What is the media saying?
A lot of the current chatter about Australia’s bid success is about Oceania being denied its vote. With Reynald Temarii deciding to appeal his suspension and the replacement David Chung back on his way home from Zurich, multiple media outlets point to this turn of events as highly detrimental to the Australian cause. However, the recent accommodating of Goldenmort and the LA Galaxy is being reported as a demonstration of how well the Aussies handle the logistics of handling huge egos–I mean, international matches.
Australia has remained relatively clean regarding potential chances to sling mud at opposing bids. While Hammam has railed against English and US media for spreading falsehoods about Qatar’s bid, Australia has stuck to promoting its own strong case for hosting duties.
Yesterday, the Aussies would have been snickering if Oceania had its vote reinstated despite Hammam’s machinations. Now, with Chung going back to Papua New Guinea empty-handed, Australia’s chances might have flown home with him.
Earlier in November, the odds for Australia winning the bid were judged to be 50/50, and now closer to the actual vote, those odds are about the same. Depending on which source you get it from, either the US or Qatar are favorites, with Australia just falling short.
In all the speculations, however, the favorites for 2022 are either the US, Qatar, and Australia—neither Japan nor Korea are seen as likely destinations to host.
So much for Blatter’s hope of uniting the Koreas, then
For Australia, then, the opinions are that it has a solid if unspectacular bid, but that either the noisy upstart in the Middle East has the votes because of Hammam’s influence or that the large money potential of the US will price it out of the cup.
In short, the Aussies seem like the not-so-attractive cousin you have to set up on a blind date by convincing your friend, “She/he’s really nice, very funny, and a great personality.”
That’s the type of bid that gets left at the bar when an urgent phone call interrupts the date.
What’s their political angle?
Being a rather milquetoast bid, there’s not much in the way of geopolitical ooze here—other than Hammam advocating for Qatar rather than Australia. About the only thing the Aussies have allegedly done is to have handed out pearl necklaces to the wives of the FIFA ExCo. If the Oceania vote isn’t allowed, Australia really has no person to scratch backs with Sepp and his Crooked Table. The only person who’s voiced support for Australia’s cause is Beckenbauer, and he’s a political lame duck since he’s not seeking another term on the ExCo. This vote will be his final official duty with FIFA.
And, the only personal connection found also centers on Beckenbauer. He recommended that the FFA hire Holger Osieck as the Socceroos coach, which they did. Osieck just happened to be Der Kaiser’s assistant coach when Germany won the World Cup in 1990.
The best angle Australia has going for it centers on the Asian market. As Australia would be in the perfect timezone and well placed for Asian tourists to attend the matches, and Aussie bid could be FIFA’s further entrance into the vast Asian market as well as cross Oceania off its list of regions never having hosted the World Cup.
FFA head Ben Buckley pointed this out in dismissing the Executive Report’s notes about potential TV revenue loss. Noting that the “Asian middle class is growing rapidly” and that there will likely be “more middle class consumers in Asia than there will be in Europe and North America combined” by the time Australia would host, Buckley touched upon a salient fact that FIFA surely noticed.
Asia and Oceania already comprise over 60% of the world’s population and many projections expect that percentage to increase by 2020. If Australia wins the bid, it could still leave the door open for China to host in 2026, thus giving FIFA two bites at a very large apple.
But, isn’t Australia a part of the AFC, just like Qatar, Japan, and South Korea? Wouldn’t China have to wait until at least 2030 per FIFA rules?
Well, per Blatter, the rule is that “a continent cannot host the FIFA World Cup twice in a row” and that rule “will not be changed. But guess what?
Australia is its own continent—the only continent bar that very icy one that’s never hosted a World Cup. Antarctica isn’t getting the bid anytime soon since penguins don’t have pockets from which to have money filched, so, Australia is the final continent left to have its moment with the Jules Rimet.
Do you appreciate that bit of a loophole being used to justify FIFA being able to hit up the Asian market twice if China do bid for 2026?
They wouldn’t even have to modify their own rules. It’s a whole other continent; it didn’t count!
What are their honest chances?
Overall, Australia’s chance to host the 2022 World Cup are being drowned out by the noise surrounding Qatar and with three other AFC nations competing, potential votes for the Aussies might get split and the US wins the bid.
There is something alluring about the ease with which Australia could host, though, given its track record in staging international sporting competitions and how its bid team has been relatively devoid of any extraneous shenanigans. FIFA seems to be overly concerned about that timezone hurting its revenue stream, however, and that could be the decider if the final two are Australia and the US.
Australia’s biggest hope could still rest on Sepp’s massive ego.
- Blatter brought the World Cup to the African continent for the first time in 2010.
- South America gets a return engagement with Brazil in 2014 and Europe will in 2018.
- Australia and China are the last large markets yet to host the World Cup, and awarding 2022 to Australia could still leave the door open for a Chinese bid in 2026.
- Qatar will be too hot, too small, and possibly too problematic regarding infrastructure to host in 2022, and the US already hosted back in 1994.
Oceania is the only region left that hasn’t had the opportunity to bring the World Cup to its part of the globe. And Sepp might just be the windbag to make it happen.
Oh, and Australia is the home of the didgeridoo, a musical device almost as annoying as the vuvuzela. You know how much FIFA loves having hosts with unique musical instruments that can drive you insane after a few seconds.