THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
The New Meadowlands Stadium chances of holding a 2022 World Cup event seemingly depends on the delivery of an aging southpaw from Arkansas and his ability to come up big once again in a major spotlight. Former President Bill Clinton, the Honorary Chairman of the USA Bid Committee for FIFA (soccer) World Cup 2022, is part of the presentation delegation that will try to convince FIFA members that they should put the 2022 event on American soil. Clinton and his fellow delegation members will plead the United States case on December 1st in Zurich, Switzerland.
The winning bids will be announced on December 2.
Bill Clinton's presence on the US committee should not be a surprise. Both the International Olympic Committee and the Federation Internationale de Football Association expect world leaders like Clinton to basically grovel and beg that their country should be given these major international sports events. International football is a big business in the United States in the stadiums and on TV while Major League Soccer is treated as an afterthought.Americans like good football not American soccer if stadium attendance and TV ratings mean anything.
FIFA's month long international event, which is held every four years, easily outpaces the Olympic Games in importance and the International Olympic Committee knows this based on the fact that the Olympics can't get every major football (soccer) player into the IOC tournament and the IOC doesn't squawk about it. The IOC in a fit of self-importance ran to the United States Congress and Arizona Senator John McCain to complain about Major League Baseball's drug testing policies in 2003 because MLB wasn't playing ball with the IOC and sending big name baseball players to the Olympics. The IOC got even as delegates dropped baseball and softball (American women were too dominating in Olympic competition) from the Games starting in 2012. But the IOC does enjoy one perk that FIFA has not been able to capture.
The International Olympic Committee (along with the Vatican) enjoys permanent observer status at the United Nations. The IOC acts as if it is a sovereign nation (it is not) and dictates to countries what they want and need if a country bids for their Games. It is thought the British Prime Minister Tony Blair's appearance before IOC delegates in 2005 got London the 2012 Summer Olympics. Russian President Vladimir Putin went before IOC delegates in 2007 to pitch Sochi, Russia's bid for the 2014 Winter Games. Putin was not the only world leader begging IOC delegates for their vote. Austria's Heinz Fisher and South Korea's Roh Moo-hyun were in Guatemala leading their countries' bids.
Putin won. The "star" of politicians seems to be very important in getting an international sports event.
FIFA is awarding two events in Switzerland this week. The 2018 and 2022 World Cup. The United States is bidding on the 2022 Games. Clinton will be in a diplomatic element in Zurich. British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William will be in Zurich in an attempt to bolster the UK bid. Cameron will go head-to-head with Putin in the 2018 bidding as Russia is in the contest along with a joint bid by Spain and Portugal, and another joint bid by The Netherlands and Belgium. The UK seeming has the lead at this point. The United States dropped out of the 2018 bidding in October to concentrate on the 2022 contest. The US competition for the 2022 World Cup will come from Australia, Japan, Korea Republic and Qatar.
The politics of the World Cup bidding process will come into play and the American bid might be hindered because the Obama Administration (like the Bush Administration before it) will not guarantee a federal underwriting of FIFA contractual guarantees. In other words, FIFA wants to be shown the money and probably wined and dined in the process. The absurdity is that America has the venues needed, hotel space needed and transportation needed and held a World Cup in 1994. The money issue can be easily rectified locally as host cities can put up guarantees like they do for the Olympics. (As Texas Governor, George W. Bush in the late 1990s allowed both the Houston bid committee for the 2012 Summer Games and the Dallas bid committee the chance to put aside $100 million in taxpayers dollars as sort of a slush fund in case either city landed the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to "cover" cost overruns. That is the price of dealing with the IOC.)
The World Cup experience in 1994 in New Jersey led Dan Doctoroff to launch a campaign aimed at getting the 2012 Summer Olympics in New York (and New Jersey). It was a different world then as Doctoroff was a managing director of a private equity firm and world leaders did not have to proselytize themselves before an international group for a world event. FIFA's recently released report on the 2022 bidders also raised a question about Japan's ability to provide financial guarantees.
Remember these big international sports events are not necessarily about competition. It is all about money going back into the governing bodies and for the winning bidders, it is a combination of political statement, financial statement and an invitation to corporations to take a closer look at their country as a major market. That is why Clinton, Cameron, Prince William and other world leaders are making final arguments. FIFA and IOC delegates like glitz. There is a political argument in the United States that is missing from this bidding and there may be a major reason that the cable news networks and the AM carnival barkers are absent from this discussion as opposed to the October 2009 shrill-a-thon when the Obama Administration was heckled by the Rupert Murdoch-Roger Ailes FOX News Channel and the Rush Limbaugh talk radio crowd when President Barack Obama went to Copenhagen to make the case for a 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago.
The cable TV news crowd and the talk radio experts, who knew nothing in 2009 about how an Olympics bid is set up and the politics around the Olympics (after all that might take some research to find out the ins and outs of international sports governing bodies) but criticized Obama for going before the Olympic delegates and then criticized him for not landing the Games for Chicago, might not be so opinionated on this bid. Murdoch has far too many irons in the football world fire with his Sky Network contracts globally particularly in England, the FOX Soccer Channel in the United States and (hopefully FOX's Lou Dobbs is seated for this), Fox Deportes that there is no need to call attention to Obama in this round of international sports bidding. Besides the US bid seems to be flying under the radar in this process. But the process has been made political as Clinton pointed out in a statement he released last Tuesday that the talkers missed.
"The bid could not come at a better time for the game of soccer, the United States and the world. First, the level of enthusiasm for the game has never been greater across America. Thanks in good part to the opportunity FIFA gave us to host the games in 1994; we have become a nation of footballers, young and old. The last 16 years have seen the creation of the MLS professional league, an expansion of the game's United States fan base to more than 90 million and now a roster of four million registered youth players. Last summer our passion for the sport extended beyond our borders: The United States was second only to South Africa in tickets purchased for the 2010 World Cup.
"Second, our nation, like the game, is more diverse than ever before. We have a fascinating mix of ethnicities and cultures within our borders. Players from every competing nation would feel as though they were playing a home game right here in the United States.
"Third, this is an important moment for the future of the game of soccer. Our bid promises not only to uphold the great legacy of the World Cup but also to advance global growth by creating new opportunities for the world's soccer economy, including greater television and sponsorship rights, increased franchise and team values and greater investment in player development.
"Last, and perhaps most important, our bid will mobilize American citizens and citizens around the globe to do more to address the economic, social and environmental challenges facing our world in the 21st century. If awarded the opportunity, we will use the 2022 World Cup as a platform to assist those less fortunate and promote environmental sustainability in line with the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. For example, a percentage of every ticket sold at the 2022 World Cup will go to the World Cup of Life campaign, a project aimed at providing drinking water for millions in the developing world. Additionally, as hosts, we would set new standards in environmental responsibility by minimizing the footprint of the event in six core areas: water, waste, energy, transportation, procurement and climate change.
"In our interdependent world we have to change our theory of success from a zero-sum game, where one team has to win while the other must lose. It's good for sports, and makes for great World Cup matches, but it's wrong for the world. We need to build a world with more winners."
Clinton is talking about the changing face of America, globalization and the environment. International sports events like the World Cup and the Olympics are political platforms. In July 1969, hostilities boiled over at a World Cup qualifier between Honduras and El Salvador which led to a four day war. The countries might have had a war anyway but the football match lead to Honduras invading El Salvador. The Olympics were a platform for Hitler's Germany in 1936, there was the Massacre of 11 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Games in Munich, the African boycott of the 1976 Montreal Games, the US boycott over the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 of the 1980 Moscow Games and the Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games as payback for the 1980 action by President Jimmy Carter.
The old lefty from Arkansas will go before FIFA delegates on Tuesday hoping to bring the football matches to the United States. He will be among the world leaders who are scheduled to appear that include Russia Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov: England's Prince William of Wales and Prime Minister Cameron; Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Mark Arib, Minister for Sport, Minister for Indigenous Peoples; (the joint bid) Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands along with Edith Schippers, Minister of Sports and Ives Leterme, Prime Minister of Belgium and Didier Reeynders, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
In another joint bid, Portugal's Secretary of State for Sports Laurentino Jose Monteiro Castro Dias and Secretary of State for Sports for Spain: Jaime Lissavetzky Diez, Secretary of State for Sports will represent the Iberian Peninsula. Qatar's delegation will Sheik Hamad bin Kahlifa Al-Thani, The Emir of the State of Qatar and members of the Royal family
Korea: Lee Myun Bak, the President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and former Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and Hiroshi Suzuki, Minister in Charge of Sports will be in Zurich. The power politics of sports business will be on display in Switzerland and with it could come some World Cup action in East Rutherford in 2022.