South Africa 2010, Australia 2022?
Australia has taken another huge step towards hosting the World Cup after it withdrew its 2018 bid to let Europe host the tournament – galvanising European support behind our 2022 bid.
In a tactical masterstroke which saw FIFA take the rare step of publicly praising Australia for its “exemplary” conduct, Football Federation Australia chairman Frank Lowy said yesterday Australia would now concentrate solely on the 2022 World Cup to clear the path for Europe in 2018.
The move is a coup for two reasons – it has sidelined the United States, which is still bidding for 2018 and 2022, and won plaudits from Europe, which holds eight votes on the 24-member FIFA executive committee which selects the host nations.
Many or even all of those eight European committee members are expected to back Australia in 2022 – a massive voting bloc given that we need 13 votes to get over the line.
Australia is now tantalisingly close to securing a majority bloc, with strong support from Europe, the one vote from the Oceania group, and some votes from Africa where the FFA and Australian Government have been commended for their $500,000 poverty and education programs.
And while Asian support is patchy – especially with Japan and South Korea mounting their own 2022 bid – the FFA is looking at bringing the region into our bid by staging World Cup friendly matches with our Asian neighbours, regardless of whether they have qualified for the finals.
The change in Australia’s position was announced via a very rare joint public statement between FIFA and Football Federation Australia.
FIFA CEO Jerome Valcke said the FFA and FIFA had been “in constant dialogue about Australia’s bidding intentions since last autumn”.
“The FFA have displayed an exemplary level of solidarity with Europe and the European Bidding Nations and were among the very first to enter into an open and constructive dialogue with me after it became apparent that there was a growing movement to stage the 2018 World Cup in Europe,” Mr Valcke said.
“Their announcement of today therefore, to henceforth focus solely on bidding for the 2022 World Cup, is a welcome gesture that is much appreciated by FIFA’s leadership and Executive Committee. We wish to thank Mr. Lowy, the FFA and the Australian Government”.
The development was forecast earlier this week by News Limited when, in an eclsuive interview, FFA Chairman Frank Lowy said he was considering focussing solely on the 2022 bid.
The decision has been months in the making and is unrelated to the fact that Asian Football Federation president Mohammed Bin Hammam , from Qatar, this week publicly backed Europe to host in 2018, to boost his country’s chances of hosting in 2022.
“We have been in discussion with FIFA for months,” Mr Lowy said yesterday.
“It is that trusting relationship with the leadership of the governing body that has caused us to focus on 2022 and decide to leave the field for 2018 to European Contenders”
The 2022 cup bid is a five-way race between Australia, Qatar, the USA, Japan and South Korea.
But each of the last three have recently hosted World Cups - the USA in 1994 and Japan-South Korea jointly in 2002. And while Qatar has backing as the first Arab host nation, there are concerns over the nation’s punishing heat which would force the use of air-conditioned stadiums and underground training facilities.
Sports Minister Kate Ellis, who is in South Africa with Mr Lowy and FFA CEO Ben Buckley for this week’s FIFA Congress, said the decision had boosted our chances of securing the tournament.
“As Australia was making a single bid for the 2018 OR 2022 World Cup - the only change is the FFA will now focus on the 2022 Bid,” Ms Ellis said.
“This can only be a good thing for our bid and major strategic move as we head into the final straight. Australia can deliver an event that the country, the region and the world can be proud of.”
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