[MY VIEW] These can't be easy times for those backing the U.S. bid to host the 2022 World Cup. If the latest revelations into the World Cup 2018/22 bid process cascading out of control are to be believed, the U.S. bid could be dead in its tracks.
Michel Zen-Ruffinen, the former FIFA general secretary, told undercover reporters from the Sunday Times posing as lobbyists working on behalf of a consortium of American companies the U.S. bid was threatened by an alliance between Spain and Qatar.
Shortly before publication of video of him talking with the Sunday Times reporters in Geneva and Cairo, Zen-Ruffinen explained much of what he had to say about the machinations were "impressions" and he had "exaggerated" his remarks to keep the American lobbyists interested, but his "impressions" were certainly damning of the process.
The lobbyists read off a list of FIFA executive committee members, and he said who was "money" -- who could be bribed.
Zen-Ruffinen named two members who could be bribed with money, a third who could be bribed with women and a fourth who was “the biggest gangster you will find on earth” and would require a minimum fee of $500,000 for his vote.
But it was the allegation that a deal between Qatar and the Spain-Portugal group was as "a fact" and had secured seven votes that must be most concerning for U.S. bidders.
"People expected a battle between Russia and England [for the 2018 World Cup],'' Zen-Ruffinen said, ''but at this stage they are very much disturbed by the alliance with Qatar because Spain starts with seven votes, which no one was expecting. This is a real alliance, bound, tacked with a gift ribbon, it is really problematic. This is not just a rumor, it is fact."
On Dec. 2, the FIFA executive committee is scheduled to vote in Zurich on the hosts for the 2018 World Cup (the four bidders are all European: England, Russia, Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium) and 2022 World Cup (the USA is up against four Asian bidders: Qatar, Australia, South Korea and Japan).
The key to the Spain-Qatar deal is the three South American votes that Spain has allegedly secured and, according to Tongan Ahongalu Fusimalohi, a former FIFA executive committee member, used to secure the vote of Oceania president Reynald Temarii by offering to provide training for its national teams, among the weakest in the world.
If such a deal existed, Qatar -- also rumored to have tied up the four African votes -- would be well on its way toward securing the 13 votes necessary if all 24 executive committee members vote. (Nigerian Amos Adamu and Temarii have been provisionally suspended for their dealings with the Sunday Times' undercover reporters posing as lobbyists.)
Deals like those outlined by Zen-Ruffinen and Fusimalohi are prohibited, according to bidding rules.
FIFA's ethics committee has opened an investigation into the alleged deals, but FIFA has not stated which bidders and federations were involved.
The USA begins with the support of the three Concacaf members on the FIFA executive committee -- Jack Warner of Trinidad & Tobago, Rafael Salguero of Guatemala and American Chuck Blazer -- but would basically need to sweep the vote of all European and Asian members if the South American and African votes were unavailable.
What makes that likelihood problematic is the USA would likely need to gain the support of all three European members whose bidding groups lost out to the Concacaf-backed European winner and gain the votes of the two Asian members whose bidding nations fell by the wayside.
FIFA executive committee members:
Sepp BLATTER, Switzerland
Angel Maria VILLAR LLONA, Spain
Michel PLATINI, France
Geoff THOMPSON, England
Michel D'HOOGHE, Belgium
Senes ERZIK, Turkey
Marios LEFKARITIS, Cyprus
Vitaly MUTKO, Russia
Franz BECKENBAUER, Germany
Issa HAYATOU, Cameroon
Amos ADAMU, Nigeria (temporarily suspended)
Jacques ANOUMA, Ivory Coast
Hany ABO RIDA, Egypt
South America (3):
Julio H. GRONDONA, Argentina
Ricardo Terra TEIXEIRA, Brazil
Nicolás LEOZ, Paraguay
CHUNG Mong Joon, South Korea
Mohamed BIN HAMMAM, Qatar
Worawi MAKUDI, Thailand
Junji OGURA, Japan
Jack WARNER, Trinidad & Tobago
Chuck BLAZER, USA
Rafael SALGUERO, Guatemala
Reynald TEMARII, Tahiti (temporarily suspended)
Note: If all 24 members are eligible, 13 votes are needed to win.