The Sweeper: Australia’s World Cup Bid – This Is A Knife

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Last week, we covered the major dispute in Australian sport over the country’s 2018/2022 World Cup bids, with the more popular rival footballing codes of Rugby League and Aussie Rules Football attempting to stick a knife into the bid over the use of the country’s major multi-purpose stadia by complaining about potential scheduling interruptions and pushing for compensation.

Both the sport’s governing bodies clearly see the rise of soccer as a threat to their riches, and were attempting to derail the bid: particularly the Aussie Rules governing body, who have less to gain from new World Cup stadia development (rectangular pitches don’t do much for them).

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Cockerill makes the point that this show of concern by soccer’s main rival codes might only entice FIFA to build on its substantial investment in the South Pacific region in recent decades by finally fulfilling its goal to spread its main tournament globally by bringing it to Australia for the first time. The complaints from rival codes might only encourage FIFA to believe there is a real opportunity to make soccer the #1 sport in Australia (even if this remains far-fetched in reality; but FIFA’s Executive Committee rarely ventures there).

No coincidence, then, that in the past 20 years FIFA has taken the cup to its most important frontiers. To the United States, to Japan and South Korea, and now to South Africa. Vibrant professional leagues have evolved in all those countries. The seeds have been sown.
Australia’s argument – espoused at every opportunity by Lowy – is that football in another key frontier, Australia, needs the same support to get the same rewards. It’s an argument which has steadily been gaining traction, and last week’s charm offensive leading into the draw in Cape Town was a spectacular triumph for the FFA chairman. FIFA is starting to listen, and now – thanks to the posturing of rival codes – it’s listening more than ever. Threatening the World Cup bid equals threatening FIFA, and FIFA doesn’t take kindly to being threatened.

No coincidence, then, that in the past 20 years FIFA has taken the cup to its most important frontiers. To the United States, to Japan and South Korea, and now to South Africa. Vibrant professional leagues have evolved in all those countries. The seeds have been sown.

Australia’s argument – espoused at every opportunity by Lowy – is that football in another key frontier, Australia, needs the same support to get the same rewards. It’s an argument which has steadily been gaining traction, and last week’s charm offensive leading into the draw in Cape Town was a spectacular triumph for the FFA chairman. FIFA is starting to listen, and now – thanks to the posturing of rival codes – it’s listening more than ever. Threatening the World Cup bid equals threatening FIFA, and FIFA doesn’t take kindly to being threatened. . .

All the whingeing and moaning is going to do is irritate some powerful people – making it even less likely they’ll get any compensation, and more likely Australia will get the World Cup. What should be a win-win for everyone might instead end up with a few sore losers. Call that a knife? This is a knife.

From the perspective of rival bids, this is also a knife ever more clearly on the table. Australia is certainly the most glamorous potential choice for FIFA to reach one of its final frontiers.

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The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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