FIFA World Cup 2022 Korea (maybe)
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Sometime later this year (Dec. 2), FIFA will choose the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 World cups. Korea has thrown its name into the hat to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. If Korea’s bid is succesful, it will be the first Asian nation to have hosted the FIFA World Cup twice. (In 2002, Korea co-hosted the World Cup with Japan).
I think that Korea’s got a legitimate shot at hosting the world cup in 2022, but that all depends on several factors. These factors include Europe bias, the competition and FIFA selection rules. If indeed Korea’s bid is successful, then what will it need to do to prepare?
Answers to these questions and more, after the jump:First of all before discussing ANY details of Korea’s bid, I think it’s necessary to understand FIFA’s selection rules. Shortly after the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, FIFA announced that the host would rotate between the continents, meaning 2002 would be in Asia, 2006 in Europe, 2010 in Africa, and 2014 in South America, meaning that 2018 would be in North America and 2022 would by default, have been in Oceania.
Wow, what a totally fair way to hit all the continents!
FIFA promptly ended the rotation policy in 2007 because FIFA has a Europe bias (there I said it!). Since the beginning of the World Cup, FIFA has allowed a European country to host the event at least once every eight years, and sometimes even back to back. In essence, the continental rotation policy started after 2002 was nothing of the sort. It was basically a mandate to force the event to be held in Africa while still allowing only an 8 year gap between European World Cups. There’s no way they would have continued that procedure, as it means after Germany in 2006, Europe wouldn’t have been eligible to host another World Cup until 2030!
So, FIFA’s rules now state that a continent can only hold the world cup once every 12 years at most. So for example, Africa hosted the World Cup in 2010, so the world cup can’t possibly return to Africa until 2022 (meaning African countries would be excluded in the bidding processes in 2014 and 2018).
So, that means FIFA’s ended that Europe bias, right?
Well, it’s better than it was, to say the least. I sincerely hope the procedure is continued in this manner in perpetuity, because it’s great to allow the World Cup to travel outside of Europe for a change. How can anyone expect world soccer to grow if the greatest event for world soccer is always in the same place all the time? At least this way, more countries outside of Europe will get the chance to host. We’ll see if they continue the policy after FIFA again awards the competition to Europe in 2018 (probably).
Wait, what do you mean 2018, I thought that you said it hasn’t been decided yet.
Officially it hasn’t. But given the Europe bias, everyone in the world knows that FIFA will bring the world cup finals back to Europe the instant they get the chance. 2006 Germany, 2010…, 2014…, 2018 Europe.
What does any of this have to do with Korea bidding in 2022? Korea’s not in Europe!
Everything! Remember, FIFA is going to award 2 bids the world cup in December. One for 2018, one for 2022. Korea’s only bidding for the 2022 event, but other countries are bidding for both. Those include: The United States, England, Russia, a joint bid by Belgium and the Netherlands, and a joint bid by Portugal and Spain. In addition, Austraila, Japan and Qatar are bidding for 2022 only. In 2018, the US and the 4 European bids are on the table.
There are then three scenarios.
Scenario A: If the US somehow miraculously escapes the Europe bias and is allowed to host in 2018, then Korea’s competition for 2022 will include all four European bids as well as the Asian ones. At that point, one can expect that a European host for 2022 would be a given, as there’s no way that FIFA’s going to allow the World Cup to have been outside of Europe for 20 years.
Scenario B: The second more likely scenario is that 2018 will go to one of the European bids (thus making the unsuccessful ones ineligible until 2030). The U.S. bid will then be evaluated against the Asian bids. In this scenario Korea has a much better chance of a succesful bid, as it escapes the Europe bias. The rest of this article will assume that Scenario B happens.
Scenario C: The third, least likely scenario is that the U.S. will win the bid in 2010 and an Asian country will win the bid in 2022. I’ve made my point clear on the European bias so I think this one has absolutely no chance ever happening.
So, will Korea get to host the 2022 World Cup?
That’s a difficult question, first we must analyze what factors FIFA most looks at when deciding a host.
1. Proximity to Europe – sad, but true, as Europe gets the most spots in the world cup (nearly half) most of the world cup travelers come from Europe. The Europe bias can work in favor of some non-European bids when they are up against other non-European countries. This is one area that Korea lacks in, and this fact won’t change for perhaps billions of years with continental drift. However, Incheon Airport is well connected with many European cities, and has been rated the best airport in the world.
2. Infrastructure – people need to be able to get around and follow their team. There also need to be large stadiums where the games can be played. Korea will have no problem here. It’s very easy to get around the whole country. There isn’t a single spot in one of Korea’s cities that I couldn’t get to in 3 hours if I left right now. I’d need to simply take the subway to Seoul Station, buy my ticket, and I’d be there. Furthermore there are plenty of stadiums that have already been built (for 2002) in Korea. They could decide to redo the 2010 World Cup in Korea tomorrow and Korea would be able to handle it easily.
3. Size – the largest country to have hosted the world cup was the United States in 1994. During the group stages, the matches in each group (except for the group containing the U.S. team) were located in the same general geographic area to limit the travel distance, afterall it would make little sense to force fans to go from LA to New York to Seattle to watch their national team. Even so, in 1994 these regions were so large that it became necessary to book hotels in multiple cities and travel by air just to follow your team. If your team was lucky enough to advance, you’d need to buy cross continental airline tickets on a moment’s notice. The proposition remains very very expensive. In small countries like Korea, this isn’t a problem. Making cross country trips by rail is relatively cheap and can be done with minimal planning.
4. Your country or region hasn’t hosted the world cup before (Brazil, Argentina, and most European countries excluded). This worked well for both Korea and Japan in 2002. It could work against both of them in their 2022 bids. Korea could have the ace (okay maybe a jack with a different backing) up its sleeve though, buy proposing to work with North Korea to get some games hosted in Pyongyang.
5. Economy – while FIFA may not admit it, I’m willing to bet that a lot of nudging and winking goes around when the FIFA selection committee visits a host country. Countries with stronger economies can probably do more nudging and winking, if you know what I mean.
6. Soccer reputation – bidding nations seem to think that their national teams’ success has something to do with FIFA’s decision to allow their country to HOST. All of the countries that have hosted were those with strong soccer traditions up until 1994 when it was held in the USA. Judging that the World Cup was awarded to South Africa instead of Ghana, Nigeria, or Cameroon in 2010 I’d have to say that this doesn’t really matter as much as the previous factors.
Before we answer the question, let me compare Korea to all of its competitors before answering. I’ll start with the Asian bids.
2022 Bids in Scenario B
Qatar – Believe it or not, Qatar actually has a decent bid, given that FIFA enjoys putting the tournament in regions of the world that haven’t had it before. There hasn’t yet been a world cup in the Arabic world despite Arabic countries like Iran and Saudia Arabia being among Asia’s top level national teams. Qatar is also relatively close to Europe, and it is a small country. All of these factors are beneficial to the Qatari bid. Qatar however must build 5 or 6 stadiums and it’s disgustingly hot there in July. These would have to be indoor stadiums to deal with the climate conditions. It will be a very expensive proposition for Qatar. Also there’s the possibility that a cultural clash might work against Qatar, as the consumption of alcohol is prohibited. The Qatari government said it would designate special fan zones where alcohol consumption would be allowed, but somehow I imagine those places would be too crowded to make going to them worthwhile. I think Korea‘s bid is much better than the Qatari bid, as it matches or bests it in everything except Qatar having never had the tournament before.
Japan- Japan is probably Korea’s pound per pound equal in terms of their 2022 bid. As both nations were co-hosts in 2002, and both nations have relatively new stadiums that they built for 2002, and both nations have (almost) equally strong national sides, and both nations are relatively small, and both nations have extensive railway systems, Japan and Korea have very similar bids. Japan’s more familiar international image could work for Japan, but Korea‘s size and lower cost gives it edges over Japan. If either Japan or Korea is awarded the 2022 bid, the country that didn’t win would be very very bitter. There is talk that Japan’s bid hinged on a successful 2016 Olympic Bid which would have helped Japan kill two birds with one stone by preparing for both events. As 2016 is in Rio, it looks like Japan will have to try its world cup efforts alone.
Australia – Australia probably has the most going for it amongst the Asian bids. It is an English speaking country. It has huge stadiums. It used to be in Oceania, which hasn’t held a world cup before. It’s drawbacks include that it is too far from Europe (And Africa, East Asia, West Asia, South America and North America), and it is a large country. I think these drawbacks will be difficult to surmount. Korea edges Australia in almost every way except Korea having already hosted the event.
USA - Again, this is assuming that the US won’t win the 2018 bid. The U.S. has in my opinion, the strongest bid of all the non-European nations.
Perhaps, but even looking objectively, the U.S. outshines Korea (and by default all other non-European bidding countries) in all areas but one. The U.S. doesn’t need to build or significantly modify ANY stadiums for the World Cup. It’s probably more connected with Europe than ANY of the other bids (yes, even Qatar). It’s an English speaking country, its cultural power is known worldwide, and (as was seen in the 1994 World Cup) it’s multiracial/multicultural/multinational society would guarantee all the matches would be well supported even if nobody in the world came to the U.S. to see the event, because Americans would support the teams they had cultural ties to. There are several members of my family who would support Italy or Korea, and possibly the Netherlands and Germany as well as the U.S. In addition FIFA wants the sport to grow in the U.S. and the U.S. national team is apparently rising. The only area that Korea does better than the U.S. is size, as Korea is small. This can easily be sidestepped by assigning each group to a specific area of the country, so that the only travel that any fan will have to do during the group stage would be within the same region of the US. This can further be quelled in the later rounds by having the knockout stages in regions that are relatively close with each other. The only thing that can possibly hurt the U.S. bid is that the U.S. has held the tournament before, but as that will have been 28 years before 2022, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
So, do you think that Korea will host the 2022 World Cup?
No, I don’t. FIFA’s Europe bias along with the US’s strong bid make it out of Korea’s reach in my opinion. All is not lost though. If I am right and one of the European bids get 2018, and the U.S. gets 2022, then both Europe and North America will be ineligible from 2026 bidding. Korea can easily make its case then. However, a 2026 bid could see more Asian bids from China and the Arab world, as well as opening up South America to bid again.
If I had my way, I’d put 2018 in the U.S. and 2022 in Korea, but FIFA’s undying
hard on soft spot for Europe will exist forever.
Edit: Who do you think will win the 2018 World Cup?
That’s a difficult question. After 2002, FIFA didn’t like the idea of joint bids. It’s interesting that Spain and Portugal as well as Netherlands and Belgium made their bids this way. Both of those are strong bids. England isn’t a bad bid either. But, since FIFA’s all about hosting the cup in places it hasn’t hosted before as of late, I’d have to go with Russia in 2018. Preparation for the World Cup could really be the catalyst that country needs for its economy to be relevant again.
Russia 2018, USA 2022
Check back on Dec. 2, 2010 to see if my predictions were right.