The American official on whom England relied to stand any chance of hosting the 2018 World Cup has revealed why he voted for Russia as the fallout into the double ballot in Zurich shows no sign of abating.
Throughout the campaign, Chuck Blazer gave the impression to the England bid team that he and his Concacaf confederation would vote for them in the critical first round. Much has been made of the Europeans who let England down but it was Concacaf, led by the controversial Jack Warner, who delivered the most painful blow when they opted for Russia, ignoring the country's record of football-related racism.
Speculation has been rife that Blazer was cajoled into voting for Russia by Warner but he insists his decision was based on legacy and what a World Cup in Russia could do to develop the sport. England, he intimated, simply had less to offer.
Blazer, whose own blog features a meeting last summer with the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, said: "England clearly had a great bid. But in the end, I look at England and say, 'What more would we have when we're finished than what I am certain would have been a great World Cup?' I believe that when we're finished in Russia, we'll have accomplished a lot of different things."
In an interview with the website Soccer America, Blazer said the turning point in both the 2018 and 2022 races was what happened in South Africa last summer. "The event was very successful from a TV, marketing, worldwide perspective. Everyone came away saying, 'Wow, what a great World Cup in South Africa'. And having done it there, no longer was it reserved for only the big countries in Europe and the Americas."
Blazer's comments reflect the widespread belief that Fifa's criteria should have included a clear message that new destinations are the No 1 priority in any World Cup bidding contest. Blazer suffered his own disappointment when Qatar trounced the United States in the voting for 2022, and still believes there will be too many obstacles despite the Middle East state's huge investment. "I still feel heat is an obstacle that they won't overcome in the time frame," he said.
He was backed by the former general secretary of Asia's own confederation, Peter Velappan, who warned that the stifling summer heat could even lead to a player boycott. "Qatar is a nice country," said Velappan, "but there is no way football can be played in June and July. No player will ever want to play in these conditions."Reuse content