Tim Noonan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 December, 2010, 12:00am

It's all about control, it always has been. How you consolidate control defines any self-respecting autocrat. For those of you, like me, who need a refresher, an autocracy is a form of government in which one person possesses unlimited power. The good people at Fifa who handed out two World Cup hosting bids last week are less democratic and transparent in their dealings than the selection of Hong Kong's chief executive.

When we take into account the autocratic nature of Fifa president Sepp Blatter and the endless accusations of corruption in his fiefdom, I have to slap myself for being so clueless. How could I not have seen the decision to award Russia the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 event? I guess I am guilty of sipping the Kool-Aid and believing traditional logic that the two front-runners in the bidding process, England in 2018 and the United States in 2022, would prevail because they apparently had the best and most deserving bids.

It would be business as usual for the World Cup as we watched games in legendary venues like London's Wembley Stadium and Manchester's Old Trafford in 2018 and Cowboy Stadium in Dallas and Soldier Field in Chicago in 2022.

But Fifa has a different version of business as usual and while I find it morally repugnant, at least I am starting to understand it. When the joint Spain-Portugal bid failed to secure the World Cup in 2018, the leader of that group basically told Fifa to go, uhm, you know what to themselves if they couldn't see the benefit of playing in famous football shrines like Nou Camp in Barcelona, the Bernabeu in Madrid and the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.

But Fifa has no desire to play the World Cup in those stadiums because that is where Barcelona and Real Madrid play. And they obviously have no desire to play at Old Trafford because Manchester United do and they don't care to play in Dallas where the Cowboys play or in Chicago where the Bears play. Those are not primarily World Cup stadiums but every venue built in Russia and Qatar will forever be a World Cup stadium and a lasting legacy to Fifa's quadrennial showpiece.

Well, in the case of Qatar the legacy will last as long as the tournament because all but one of the ridiculously expensive stadiums will be torn down and shipped overseas to needy countries. Custom-made stadiums done to Fifa's exacting and palatial standards, what's not to like here? Remember, in an autocracy it's all about control, baby.

There is nothing pleasant about the political scene in the US right now. Nothing. There is no way Fifa wants to insert itself into the rancorous discourse there, not now and not 12 years from now when President Sarah Palin asks, gosh darnit, why are there not more women playing in the men's World Cup? And then Congress and the Senate, who have nothing better to do, say if you want to hold this tournament in our country you have to follow our rules.

Now Fifa can say if you want to play in our World Cup you can come to Qatar. But if you don't like the way we do business, you can stay home and another country will take your spot. Fifa may stink, but they don't blink.

The legions of charlatans on the US political scene have nothing on Blatter. Nothing. There are no congress, senate or election campaign sound bites to worry about in Qatar, either. When Blatter shows up in Qatar he receives a hero's welcome, not the bum's rush.

Same thing in England. The BBC does some great work and here is hoping it continues to. But I would be shocked if a Russian TV station was to do an expose on the corruption of Fifa members. It might happen, but it would be the last thing that TV station ever does. If what England can take away from this episode is that because it has a free press it can't host the World Cup, then it's a victory that will be far more enduring than any soccer tournament.

One day before the victorious bids were announced, internet pariah Wikileaks released a number of confidential documents purported to be from the US State Department stating, among other things, that Russian democracy has disappeared and that Prime-Minister-For-Life Vladimir Putin has long carried on like an autocrat. Fifa was so shocked by the revelations it decided to award Russia the World Cup. If 10 per cent of the accusations made over the years about Blatter and Putin are true, then we are talking about some desperately shady cats. Hell, if 5 per cent of it is true then we still have a couple of seriously ruthless characters that nobody in their right mind would want to be on the bad side of. In hindsight, it's a perfect match. They are brothers in arms and brothers in autocratic charms.

One of the criticisms about the US bid was that the venues would be spread throughout the country and too far apart. Have you seen a map of Russia lately? I know they have lost some of their former Soviet republics, but it's not exactly Luxembourg. No such worries in Qatar, which is about the size of your mouse pad. Not only will the venues be next to each other but they will all be climate controlled to help combat the insufferable summer heat, which often climbs close to 50 degrees Celsius. Everything will be artificially enhanced. It will be like holding the World Cup in a Hollywood studio, which is perfect because Blatter and Fifa will have total control over things. That was the intent all along. I apologise for not seeing that sooner and promise it will never happen again.