With the ugly scenes outside and within Upton Park now etched in the minds of football fans globally, does this give the US an expected World Cup 2018 boost? Was Tuesday also the fatal day the English FA will look back upon and say that the World Cup was lost?
The harsh reality of England’s bid was that despite the outstanding efforts of the FA and Law Enforcement to root out the most vicious and dangerous firms over the past twenty years, hooligans are still perceived as a problem in the country. I have spoken to many non Englishmen in the last year and a half who still have doubt about the hosting of such a large and multi-ethnic event in the country. Central London, is one thing, but other parts of the city and certainly other parts of the country is another thing entirely in the eyes of some foreigners.
While it is true that none of these people are voting members of FIFA, they do represent a potpourri of opinions from football fans outside of Europe. It should be recalled, however that England successfully hosted the Euro 96 tournament without incident.
It is also somewhat unfair to single out England for violent actions around football matches. At this point in time Eastern Europe, Italy, South America and parts of Africa have far more regular violence associated with the game. But, it is England that is viewed by many as the center of “firm” organization and development. Firms throughout the rest of the world have often been developed on an English model, based on the success of groups associated with English clubs.
Here in the United States, our top division Major League Soccer and the US Soccer Federation have done an outstanding job of limiting any anti-social behavior from elements that may gather in and around football matches. The United Soccer Leagues have had some problems in the lower divisions of the game in this country, but by and large have also joined MLS in containing any potential trouble. When trouble shows up in MLS, it is quickly dealt with. The Houston Dynamo, in particular have led the way on this front.
With this in mind, has the United States now overtaken England as the 2018 favorite? Or is this an open door for Australia, or another European nation not as closely associated with hooliganism to challenge for the winning bid? What does England need to do to regain the initiative and put Tuesday’s events firmly in the rear view mirror?