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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. . .
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.
- Finally there is a good piece on the abuse of Mario Balotelli, by Tom Kington in the Guardian: noting that he is receiving special and unwelcome attention as an emblem of an Italian society under transformation due to immigration patterns, Kington also notes a wider culture of support is emerging: “If Balotelli is indeed picked by Italian national coach Marcello Lippi to play in the World Cup next summer, the selection may signal a new era for black Italians. And as more and more of their white compatriots realise that the country’s ethnic make-up is changing, support is at least beginning to emerge across the political spectrum.”
- It’s probably a good sign for women’s football in England that the number of applications to fill the FA’s new Women’s Super League is about double the number of spots available, 8, though it also raises the tricky question of how the FA decides who gets in. Sunderland’s manager Mick Mulhern is particularly concerned the FA may choose northeast rivals Newcastle over his own, recently successful team: “The FA surely can’t choose a team from a lower division against a side that has achieved what we have. If the eight clubs had been decided a year ago it might have been a toss-up for us to be one of them but, if we don’t get in now, there’s something badly wrong. And if Newcastle get in and we don’t, it will make a mockery of this new league – and I would walk away from the game.”
- We don’t usually link to videos of fans attacking players, but there is at least something innovative about the use of the carrot as Giorgos Karagounis of Panathinaikos is attacked by carrots by Iraklis fans.
- Also, a must-read from last week we missed on linking: Sport Is A TV Show looks at Stephen Ireland and the Irish media in an outstanding two-part series on “Egoman”.
- Finally, on a local note, Eric Wynalda is being linked with the vacant Chicago Fire head coaching job. Credit to the first writer to cover this and not use a “fireworks” metaphor.
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.