By now, most of you know that corrupt FIFA president and deluded madman Sepp Blatter is stepping down after several FIFA officials were arrested in Zurich, following a large-scale investigation led by the U.S. Justice Department.
While this is good news for soccer fans across the globe, the mess that Blatter and his cronies left behind will take years, perhaps decades to clean up. The scandal plagued organization was so unscrupulous, it made Joe Pesci’s character in Goodfellas look like Mother Teresa.
Yes, the problems at FIFA won’t be fixed overnight. But they can fix one problem immediately. Move the 2022 World Cup out of Qatar.
I know that last statement makes me sound like an imperialist and I get the argument that “third world” nations should get the opportunity to host major events in order to help the game grow in those countries. But Qatar wasn’t fit, nor was it ready for the biggest sporting event on the planet.
Qatar had no stadiums built nor did they even have a professional league when FIFA announced that the Middle East nation would get the tournament. When construction on the stadiums began, it became a human rights nightmare.
According to a report in The Guardian newspaper in 2013, at least 44 workers from Nepal had died in a span of two months. The Guardian also reported that there was “evidence of forced labour,” non-payments to workers, denied access to free drinking water even though Qatar is in the middle of the desert, and no communication to their families. Recently, The Mirror newspaper reported the death toll in Qatar is near 2,000 from the brutal conditions in Qatar in order to get the country ready for 2022.
We all know that the way Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup was rigged. It will be proven in a short time. But enough about Qatar. Let’s talk about a country that was in the running to host the tournament. In fact, some said they had the best bid to host the tournament but finished fourth in the voting which shocked some prominent observers. Australia should be the host country for the 2022 World Cup.
Admittedly, Australia isn’t perfect when it comes to Human Rights issues either. Its treatment of asylum seekers, aboriginals, people with disabilities and of the LGBT community is questionable at best and appalling at worst. But every country (including my home and native land) has human rights issues in which they should feel ashamed about. It is a global problem that everyone needs to do their part in making things better for all.
Australia does have history in hosting big sporting events. Sydney hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics to great acclaim. Many foreign observers called it the best games ever. Melbourne hosted the Olympics in 1956 and bid unsuccessfully for the 1996 Summer Games.
Australia hosted a very successful World Cup of Rugby back in 2003. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1.8 million people attended matches which resulted in $200 million in ticket revenues. An estimated 65,000 international visitors came to Australia for that event. Expect that number to double or even triple for soccer’s World Cup. An additional $494 million in industry sales were generated during the tournament. 4,500 jobs were created while $289 million in GDP went into the Australian economy. This is a license to print money if FIFA opened its eyes, instead of taking bribes.
While Australia is spread out, it has two world-class cities in Sydney and Melbourne. Both cities make many travel lists as must-see cities and are on many people’s bucket lists as places they must visit before they die. The argument could be made that Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra are world-class in their own right as well. FIFA wants solid urban centres to host games. Australia has that and then some.
Tourism is a massive industry in Australia so they would know how to handle the crush of soccer fans that would invade the Land Down Under.
In 2012, Australia made $51.44 billion in revenue generated from tourism. Compare that to Japan who made $1.47 billion in tourism or France who made $400 million in tourism. Australia can pull off the World Cup and make money in the process.
You want stadiums, Australia has that too. ANZ Stadium in Sydney was the Olympic Stadium in 2000 and remains in excellent shape today. Several teams in the National Rugby League play their home games at ANZ while two teams in the hugely popular Australian Rules Football League also call ANZ home. Soccer has history as well at ANZ. In a memorable World Cup qualifier in 2005, Australia defeated in Uruguay on penalties to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
It was the first time Australia made the World Cup tournament since 1974 and it happened at ANZ. Australia won the AFC Asian Cup in 2015 defeating South Korea 2-1 in a thrilling final at ANZ. With its recent history and its 83,500 seating capacity, ANZ is a perfect venue for the World Cup.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is more famous for hosting cricket (duh!) and Australian Rules Football but it can and has been used for soccer as well. The Socceroos have hosted World Cup qualifiers and international friendlies over the years at the MCG. With a seating capacity in excess of 100,000, the MCG would be an ideal stadium for the World Cup.
Other stadiums such as Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, the Adelaide Oval, Perth Stadium (under construction, set to open in 2018), Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Canberra Stadium, Gold Coast Stadium in Gold Coast, Geelong Stadium in Geelong, Townsville Stadium in Townsville, Blacktown Stadium in Blacktown and Hunter Stadium in Newcastle can be used for World Cup games as well. That beats building stadiums in Qatar that would never be used again. And no one dies. What a bonus!
A professional soccer league? Australia has that too. The ten team A-League was founded in 2004 and while it isn’t close to the top European leagues, it is serving as a nice developmental league for Australian and international players. The likes of Archie Thompson, John Aloisi and Brett Emerton have represented the Socceroos at the World Cup while foreign stars such as Costa Rica international Carlos Hernandez, Italian Alessandro Del Piero and former Manchester United star Dwight Yorke have all plied their trade in the A-League at some point. The league has had its stumbling blocks but it is gaining a foothold in the sports mad nation.
With its strong infrastructure, wealth of national resources, thriving youth culture, and a knack for hosting big time sporting events, Australia would make an excellent host for the World Cup. It’s time for FIFA to recognize this and move the 2022 World Cup out of Qatar and into the Land Down Under.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973