KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Harold Mayne-Nicholls, still assessing whether to run for the FIFA presidency next year, has spoken out about the danger threatening the World Cup without a change of style and direction at FIFA.
One of his ideas is that FIFA should consider the possibility of a multi-national hosting of the finals, after the model being planned by European federation UEFA for 2020.
The Chilean’s warning chimed with uncertainty over the outcome of the ethics investigation into the 2018-2022 voting scandal and ongoing confusion over the timing of the finals in Qatar.
Mayne-Nicholls, 53, led the technical inspection of the 2018 and 2022 bid nations and warned specifically about the forbidding heat in the Gulf in the traditional summer dates of the World Cup.
The Chilean media has picked up eagerly on criticism by Mayne-Nicholls of Sepp Blatter who is pursing re-election next May for a fifth term as world federation president.
Mayne-Nicholls’s concerns for the future of the World Cup are of particular relevance now that the Chilean federation president, Sergio Jadue, has expressed an interest in co-hosting the centenary finals in 2030.
Uruguay, inaugural hosts, had planned a co-hosted bid with Argentina but the latter has now walked away from the project.
Mayne-Nicholls said: “[If football does not change direction] we are going to finish up damaging the World Cup and there is nothing more dear to our sport than the World Cup. If we do not act now we will regret if for ever.”
Mayne-Nicholls echoed a complaint of UEFA president Michel Platini about Blatter’s change of heart over continuing in office.
He said: “He told me, two or three times, that 2011 was his last election and he would then retire. Now, four years later, he is back to stand again, saying that he needs another four years to complete his mission.
“The question then is whether this is what football wants or what he wants.”
Mayne-Nicholls’s wider concerns about FIFA is “the lack of transparency, minimal democracy and an image of total disconection between the fans and the administration. The fans are the soul of football and what’s happening is that they are going down totally separate roads.”
He also worried about structural fault lines within FIFA which were even more of a problem than Blatter himself.
The first declared presidential candidate was Frenchman Jerome Champagne, a former deputy general secretary of FIFA.
Mayne-Nicholls said: “Jerome has a different vision. He says he would work to correct the imbalances exacerbated by the globalisation of football. This is not the same thing that I’m saying. What I am saying is that we need greater transparency and sharing in participation, more democracy, in tune with the present times.”
As for the 2022 World Cup, Mayne-Nicholls sees two alternatives: “Firstly, switch the finals to the winter with all the problems that will cause the European leagues. Secondly, it could e played in May and June, instead of June and July, when the games could kick off at 7pm, 9.30 and midnight or even later.
“This is an easier solution than changing all the domestic competitions.”
Mayne-Nicholls also believes that FIFA might consider a “Euro 2022-style” solution for the 2030 World Cup finals which all South America believes it should stage for historical reasons.
FIFA, under Blatter, has always rejected co-hosting since the lone, politically-inspired staging in Japan and South Korea in 2002. However, Mayne-Nicholls believes that the evolution of the World Cup demands a revolutionary approach.
He said: “If UEFA can stage the European Championship finals in 13 venues in 13 different countries when it’s perfectly possible for the World Cup. For example, possibly Chile could host a World Cup with not only Uruguay but maybe also with Argentina and Paraguay. Why not?
“It could be a good idea. For one thing it would mean no more ‘white elephant’ stadia being built, as they did in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil this year. We have to learn the lessons.”