As the South African World Cup heads to its conclusion, the immediate focus on the soccer agenda will turn not to the next tournament in Brazil but rather the potential hosts of the two editions in 2018 and 2022.
A decision will be made in December on the hosting of the two tournaments when Fifa’s powerful cabinet, its 24-man executive committee, chooses from a list of nine candidates.
It is the first time the hosting of two World Cups is being made at the same time and will come at the end of a fairly brief and low-profile campaign, enlivened only by English tabloid revelations and Australian accusations of alleged bribery.
England, despite the resignation of FA chairperson Lord Triesman after a tabloid sting in which he accused rival bids of corruption, are the bookmakers’ favourites to win the 2018 bid, ahead of rival European countries and the United States.
Russia is a strong outsider but joint bids from Belgium and The Netherlands, plus Portugal and Spain, need to overcome Fifa’s reluctance to have co-hosts again after what officials said was a difficult and costly event in South Korea and Japan in 2002.
The two Asian countries are bidding again, though this time separately, for the 2022 finals along with Australia and Qatar.
Australia’s football federation said on Tuesday it had issued proceeding against newspapers who alleged malpractice in their bid. Among the allegations were that the bid had given inappropriate gifts to Fifa officials and their wives.
Strict rules have kept the rival bids from overwhelming the fringes of the World Cup in South Africa but delegations have been taken on official tours of the facilities and local organisation in the last week by the world governing body.
Leading officials have been discreetly lobbying key Fifa members with England using Princes William and Harry to host a reception in Johannesburg in the first week of the World Cup, which rivals claimed came close to flouting the rules.
But central to the chances of the nine bids will be the intense inspections Fifa will launch later this month, sending experts to pick over the candidate’s bid books — voluminous documents that detail how they plan to host their World Cup.
Once the inspections are completed by September, Fifa’s executive committee will receive a summation of the best bids but it is not always the most suitable candidate that wins.
In the end, the politicking and personal interests of the all-powerful executive committee decides the outcome of the vote, this time scheduled for Zurich on December 2.