Opinion: Unfairly won or not, 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups should still be hosted in Russia and Qatar

FIFA President Sep Blatter is flanked by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, right, and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, after the announcement that Russia will host the  World Cup 2018 and Qatar 2022.
FIFA President Sep Blatter is flanked by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, right, and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, after the announcement that Russia will host the World Cup 2018 and Qatar 2022.

Regardless of what happens next with FIFA, the 2018 and 2022 World Cups should go ahead in Russia and Qatar as planned.

A World Cup in England would be incredible. We have the fans, the lure of the Premier League, the stadiums.

I have no doubt that a first World Cup on English soil since 1966 would be a glorious feast of football - England United, the World Invited.

But whenever that World Cup would be, it should not be in either 2018 or 2022. It may well be that Russia and Qatar ‘won’ the rights to host the two tournaments unfairly, but that in itself should not be a reason to take the job from them.

In the case of Russia, it is now four and a half years since that fateful December afternoon in Zurich when Sepp Blatter opened the envelope with their name on, and just three years until the tournament itself will begin.

I don’t know exact figures, but it can be assumed that in the time that has passed since the confirmation that Russia would be hosts, vast sums of money will have been spent on upgrading stadiums, and infrastructure such as roads, airports and hotels.

Any revoking of hosting rights would plunge those who have invested in these projects into serious financial problems, and legal challenges to this would no doubt rumble on unpleasantly for years.

Away from the corporate side of what has happened in Russia since 2010, taking away the rights to hosting the World Cup would have a big social impact, with millions of ordinary Russians having the chance of a lifetime taken away from them.

Some may have made significant life decisions purely based on the 2018 World Cup, whether that be through learning a particular trade that would enable them to find work related to the tournament, or even moving city to one which would be due to host matches in order to increase their chances of obtaining tickets.

Punishing these football fans for the ills of FIFA does not seem fair or even relevant.

(On an additional note regarding Russia, it has been mentioned in some quarters that were the conflict in Ukraine to escalate, then Russia should not host the World Cup in 2018. That would be a different issue, and not one related to FIFA).

Even if there hadn’t been any suspected wrongdoings, hosting a World Cup in Qatar was always going to be a controversial decision, with the desert climate of the country making it unsuitable to host the World Cup in the traditional June/July slot, leading to a switch to a November tournament.

However, I am of the belief that, as enough warning has been given, the major European leagues will have, as a one-off, to rearrange their schedules for that season to fit around the moving of the tournament.

The 2022 World Cup should go ahead in Qatar as planned due to the huge human cost already associated with staging the tournament in the small Arab state - as many as 1400 migrant workers are already said to have died building the stadiums, so for the World Cup to not even end up being held in those stadiums would mean that this tragic waste of life will all have been for nothing.

The American former FIFA official Chuck Blazer, who has been one of the key whistle blowers for the FBI’s case, has said that bribes were accepted from South Africa in their bid to host the 2010 World Cup, and even from France in their bid to host the 1998 World Cup.

Although it looks likely that Russia and Qatar will be found guilty of some form of wrongdoing in how they came to be named as hosts of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, it needs to be remembered that it was the FIFA the organisation that is corrupt, and that although some form of punishment may be appropriate for the two nations, something as severe as losing the rights to host the tournaments would be far too harsh as they were both merely playing the system that has been in place.

So what should happen now? It has become clear that the process that has been used for selecting World Cup hosts is a complete farce, yet there is now the opportunity to rebuild FIFA completely from scratch.

The 2026 edition of the tournament is long enough away for the world governing body to rebuild its reputation.

The new president should spent the first year or so of their reign (March 2016 - mid 2017) coordinating a new and completely fair way on how World Cup hosts should be selected.

This should include exactly how a host will be chosen and exactly what is required of the host nation. Any countries wishing to bid will then have from the middle of 2017 to the middle of 2019 to put a bid together.

The hosts of the 2026 World Cup will then be chosen fairly, using pre-determined criteria, and have enough time to put all their plans in place.

If England ever do host a World Cup again, then it should be for the right reasons - their bid was the best bid for the particular year.

If this happens, then fantastic, if not, then at least there will be a valid explanation for this.

The rebuilding of FIFA will be a slow process and has to be done correctly - unfortunately, rash decisions such as taking the World Cups away from Russia and Qatar at this stage is not the answer.