There’s been lots in the news lately about Britain’s 2018 World Cup bid getting into an embarrassing sticky patch, the FA chairman resigning after some unflattering private conversations were published, and of course there’s speculation that the bid may be over before it’s barely begun. Well, hurrah for that, I have to say.
I’m guessing that England’s bid has some rather flaky patches hidden underneath the glitz, anyway. This is because part of it involves Bristol, and the flakiness of Bristol’s part of the bid has already been well-publicised locally. To summarise for non-Bristolian readers: the bid depends on a new football stadium being built on a greenfield site. Part of it still doesn’t have planning permission, and campaigners are still trying to block the rest. The football club have previously claimed that they could only afford to build the thing by also building a housing estate – permission refused – and by selling their old stadium site to Tesco, which generated a rather big local anti-Tesco campaign. Tesco, presumably not wanting to be seen on the losing side of an argument, pulled out of the deal just before their planning application was due to be heard. Their place has been replaced by Sainsburys, who have a shiny website but not much else likely to swing opinion in their favour.
I’ll nail my colours to the mast straight away and say that I’m not in favour of the World Cup coming to England. I’m not in favour of it existing at all, in fact; but if it has to exist, I definitely don’t want it getting in the way of real life. Particularly, though, I’m not in favour of having to pay for it, which undoubtedly all of us will, especially if we live in a Host City. I’m also not really looking forward to having my home city turned into a corporate-sponsored advertising opportunity for a couple of months; because, let’s face it, if you follow the money-trail then the World Cup is nothing to do with football and everything to do with advertising the highest-bidding corporations; part of that involves turning the host cities into corporate monocultures where anything referring to those corporations’ competitors is strictly forbidden.
The local press sneaked a darkly threatening line into one of their recent World Cup stories: the bid is legally binding on the city council. In other words, if England is unlucky enough to make a successful bid, that’s it. It goes ahead, and the city council is bound to deliver what they’ve promised. If Bristol City FC are telling the truth, if they really can’t afford to build a stadium without a supermarket, and the supermarket plans get thrown out, then presumably the city will somehow have to find a way to build it. The council could be in a nasty trap, either to approve an unpopular and unwanted supermarket or to fund a stadium they’re obliged to ensure exists. Of course, there may be a way for them to get out of it; I really do hope there is.
That’s one of the problems, I suppose, in making a bid for something on the grounds that you have a nice stadium which doesn’t exist yet and doesn’t have funding in place. Presumably the people at FIFA who are going through all the bids with a fine-tooth comb will spot that England’s bid depends on at least one stadium which consists solely of pretty pictures and promises so far; and will want to know what’s going to happen should the money to build it not turn up as expected. Fingers crossed. Even so, I feel like patting Lord Triesman on the back; when it comes to England losing the bid, everything will help.