By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger has called for a more technical, transparent bid process when the next World Cup hosts are chosen.
England’s hopes of holding the 2018 tournament were extinguished on Thursday as Russia was chosen by FIFA shortly before Qatar was handed the 2022 Finals.
England mustered just two votes from the 22-man committee despite receiving a stronger evaluation report than Russia and earning praise from FIFA president Sepp Blatter for a “remarkable” presentation at the ceremony in Zurich.
That led to recriminations as the chief executive of England’s bid team, Andy Anson, suggested that a future bid would be pointless unless FIFA reformed a voting process that gives a vote each – and therefore so much power – to 22 executives.
Wenger sympathises. “I’m very sad because I supported that [England] bid as much as I could,” he said. “I am sad for the people who have a passion in their country for football. I don’t believe FIFA was conscious of how much it meant to people here.
“It’s very difficult to understand what happened and why it happened, and it raises a question: how this World Cup is voted for.
“It looked to me a little bit of a Middle Age way to decide. You would like to have much more technical criteria than human criteria. It would maybe wipe out all these things you see in the press. You could imagine you could have 100 criteria for example with a different weight and you put that in a computer and the best comes out.
“It doesn’t look right in modern life that people have to go and lobby and say ‘please believe in us’. I would like to see more technical [criteria] and for me that is the main problem. You have to work in modern life to get all suspicion out. Is the suspicion right or wrong I don’t know but you don’t want a vote of that importance to have suspicion.”
The FIFA response to England’s anguish would be to point out the virtues of taking the World Cup to new territories – after all, Russia and Qatar have never hosted the tournament. That raises the question of whether England were wasting their time by bidding for 2018 in the first place but Wenger thinks they were right to try.
“Yes, because it has not been played here for a long, long time and this country created the sport.” he said.
“That’s why I said you should have 100 criteria, the technical, commercial, the fact that the country never had the competition before could be one of them, and give them a different weight and decide.
“That criteria cannot be the only one that is taken into consideration before a decision of that magnitude is made. Russia is a good candidate and congratulations to them. But we all do not know why the England bid has failed so much. You want to understand why.”
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