For many people, whilst football has continued to grow around the world, one thing still seems to be shrouded in mystery. How do you bid to host the World Cup? As viewing figures continue to grow across the world, the games global reach now spans everywhere from South Korea to Ghana, from Qatar to Belgium and FIFA has responded by taking the competition to new territories.
Despite this almost universal popularity, the World Cup has only begun to move away from its two continental system in the last 20 years and it was clear for it to become a truly global event it had to be held on other continents. The 1994 World Cup, in the USA, was the first time the competition had been held out of its South/Central American and European duopoly and saw the opportunity for other continents finally realised. Yet the decision to allow South Korea and Japan to host the tournament in 2002 still caused controversy for some, despite the massive following the game has in Asia, FIFA had to stand firm against such criticism.
The problems continued with the 2006 bidding process, which saw South Africa pipped by Germany, and FIFA finally had to take a more proactive approach to the system and decide to refine the system to allow all continents a fair chance of hosting the tournament. As such, a new rule was implemented from October 2007 that meant no continent that held the competition could apply to host it again for the following two World Cups. So with Russia winning the rights to the 2018 World Cup, Europe cannot apply to host it until 2026, Asia cannot bid to host until 2030 and so on.
As part of this revamp, a simplified timetable was introduced to allow all eligible parties a clear set of guidelines on the timescales and deadlines that are now required.
Firstly, FIFA will announce an invitation to bid to its member nations, usually seven years before the competition is due to be held (the next one is expected in 2019), and await expressions of interest. A window of three to four weeks is offered, allowing nations an opportunity to discuss the potential of applying to host the competition. Once this period has ended, all interested parties are sent the application pack, stating the expected criteria, investment and stadia required.
The interested parties then have a six week period to complete the application, usually in conjunction with Government support and these are lodged with FIFA to enable the applications to be set. From the closure of this deadline, all interested countries have around a year to finalise the bid, setting out what investment will be required, the number of stadia’s they intend to use and the deadlines for all the work to be completed. This period also allows countries to drop out of the running without prejudice.
Once everything has been concluded, FIFA will then embark on a series of four day tours of each of the prospective hosts, visiting the stadium and potential sites, usually surrounded by a cavalcade of officials and political figures, former footballers and celebrities. Each nation is visited in turn and then a period of evaluation is started; this often sees a series of presentations made by the applicants to the 24 members of the FIFA executive committee who will have the final say on who wins the right to host the tournament.
Finally, it comes down to the vote. Whilst every member of FIFA is at the vote, it is only the 24 executive members who decide. A series of ballots begin which sees all the applicants voted upon in turn, unless one applicant receives 12 or more votes, which subsequently means automatically winning the ballot. If this cannot be reached, the applicant with the least amount of votes is eliminated, and the ballots continue until one applicant is left standing.
For the 2018 World Cup, England went out first, and then the joint Dutch/Belgian bid and the Spanish/Portuguese bid could only muster nine votes between them, allowing Russia the victory in two rounds. The 2022 vote went to four rounds before Qatar was announced as the winner, but they had won every round of voting up to that point keeping ahead of the USA throughout the ballot.
Of course, all eyes will be on the voting for 2026 with only bids from North America, South America, Africa and Oceania allowed to be put forward and that could see new opportunities or familiar faces having the chance to show us their interpretation of the greatest competition in the world.
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