Friday, March 02, 2007

Browned off...but USA happy!

Diana Ross lost her looks after the USA 1994 World Cup
In what’s not, by most estimations, been a storming few days for Gordon Brown, I’m sure the Chancellor has not been paying much attention to Sepp Blatter.

But Fifa President Blatter’s refusal to confirm that the World Cup will return to Europe in 2018 looks pretty bad for the Chancellor’s dream of leading a successful English bid. It strikes me that Blatter – not the most transparent of football administrators – might know more than he’s prepared to admit. Particularly regarding the United States bid.

When I heard Sunil Gulati, US Soccer President, announce his intention to bid I put his supreme confidence down to his American-ness. Now I think he may know something that we don’t.

So my guess is that we’ll see the next five World Cup’s held in South Africa, Brazil, the US, Australia and then Europe in 2026. When Gordon Brown will probably not be Prime Minister.

Which means a return to the US – on the back of the Beckham factor – and memories of that opening ceremony, Maradona’s crazy eyes and the Divine Ponytail’s least divine moment. But Fifa are determined to crack the US and 2018 might be the time.

If South Africa isn’t ready – a huge possibility - then Australia might jump the queue and Europe, because Australia is now in the Asian federation, might be bumped up to 2022. But it’s still a long time.

A lengthy wait might work in England’s favour – as long as the Olympics are a success - because it will diminish the memory of the failed 2006 bid, the Wembley wobbles and head scratching craziness of the initial Olympic budget projections.

And if Scotland get their act together to bid for the 2016 European Championships then the longer England have to wait the more attractive we will be to voters. UEFA won’t follow a Scottish Euro 2016 with an English World Cup 2018.

That, of course, is all conjecture. But I feel that Scotland (maybe with a partner across the sea) could make a decent bid. As long as nobody currently involved in running the Scottish game or running Scotland from Holyrood is allowed within a hundred miles of the project.

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