A former FIFA official has called for the way the World Cup is awarded to be changed in order to save its legacy.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Harold Mayne-Nicholls also labels the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar as a mistake and claims that a new voting process must be put in place in order to stop executive committee members from agreeing deals with potential hosts.
Mayne-Nicholls claims that such a deal was in place with Qatar, and that they had effectively already won the bidding before his team’s summary report had been considered.
“When we made a report, they had a look at it, but the decision was taken before,” he said. “Or the word was given: 'I gave you my word that I will vote for you,’ even when the report was not on the table. We need to change the system of how we elect who will be hosting the World Cup. We cannot keep this system. It has too many imperfections, for the legacy of the World Cup, and for FIFA.”
But, despite claims to the contrary, Mayne-Nicholls remains of the belief that Qatar will remain as World Cup hosts in 2022.
“Unless they find something immoral or illegal I don’t think Qatar will lose the chance to stage the World Cup,” he said. “They got it. That’s democracy. But we need to work on the future. If not, we will be in a loop, making the same mistakes.
“Whatever they decide must be decided by the Exco [FIFA executive committee], but I would expect this time they will follow the proposals [of FIFA's task force]. If not we go from one mistake to another. That will be even worse.”
Mayne-Nicholls also revealed that Qatar made an attempt to host the Olympics and put their unlikely success at winning the World Cup down to the depth of their resources.
“Let’s say commerce, the power of money,” he said. “They were very ambitious. They pushed hard. Qatar also wanted the Olympics, and bid for them, but the technicians said no.
“The decision was taken in December 2010. We are almost three years from then. There’s not a single way to prove that something anti-ethical was done. The football family, the media, are unable to prove things were not done in the right way. In my case, I went there, I wrote the report book, and nobody offered me anything, in any of the bids. So how can I say, yes, this was a problem?”
There has been much debate about finding an alternative debate for the tournament, but Mayne-Nicholls insists that it is impossible to find a solution that will suit everyone.
“You have to delete July,” he said. “From what I’ve been hearing, we have four chances. One is April, but if we do it in April all the leagues must be finished by March and will not be seen again until August. That would be chaotic for the football family. The second one I’ve heard is to do it in October/November. That’s OK, it’s not so warm as June and July, but you will have conflicts with all the club competitions all over the world. They are all playing, and we must stop them all, or it’s not fair.
“The third one is January/February. That’s OK, it’s cool there. It’s 20-25 degrees, cool enough to play football. But then you have problems with the three biggest leagues: Spain, Italy and the Premier League, because you don’t have breaks at that time. You have breaks in Germany, France and Russia, but not here. Here in England, you have Boxing Day and New Year’s Day games: huge icons.
“How about the middle of May to the middle of June? We would have to investigate the weather conditions then. There is not a perfect solution for this.”
England’s failure to host the 2018 World Cup was a particular disappointment, with many feeling that a strong bid was prepared. Mayne-Nicholls was at a loss to explain the decision, but said it may have been politically motivated.
“You can always lose, but what I cannot understand is that you got two votes in the first round,” he said. “Why two votes when the bid presentation was, if not No 1, very close to No 1? It’s only political, it’s not commercial, or communications, or legal, or the government, or the football. But you were not able to convince them.”
However, he backed Russia to host a successful tournament, saying: “Russia is a different story [to Qatar]. They have a big cultural basis, very strong. It’s a country you can visit. They don’t have this weather. They have a football tradition. They have something to show to the world. I’m not saying they were the perfect hosts, but I don’t think Russia will be a problem, and they are organising this with Sochi [the Winter Olympics], which will give them major practice for the World Cup.”
He believed FIFAwill survive one World Cup fiasco, but not a second: “It’s created a bad image for the World Cup, but we have 2018 and we will have 2026. We will lose credibility, but the players will show the [FIFA] board members, the press and the politicians, the right way to do things, in the game itself. They will prepare themselves and play. It doesn’t matter if they have to do it on the moon. As we say in Spanish, it’s for the glory.”