KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Anyone bothering to read the evaluation report on the Women’s World Cup bidders would have been left in no doubt: the joint proposal from Australia and New Zealand was superior to that of Colombia by a country mile.
So what defiance of logic and evidence persuaded all nine of UEFA’s voters in FIFA Council on Thursday to vote en bloc for Colombia with a Soviet-era disciplined unanimity redolent of world football’s bad old days?
Clearly it could not have been in exchange for a South American promise to vote for Europe – probably Britain and Ireland – to host the men’s World Cup in 2030.
After all, CONMEBOL will be pulling out all the political stops in favour of the projected four-way bid from Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay.
UEFA’s strategy managed, in one fell swoop, to overturn years of justified dissatisfaction with FIFA by apparently placing the world governing body on the side of the political angels with its publicly-available evaluation report and voting transparency.
Revelation of the individual votes left nothing to old-fashioned speculation, friendly hints or intelligent guesswork.
Kith and kin?
Even Greg Clarke, chairman of the Football Association from an England with powerful kith and kin – family and sporting – ties to the Aussies and Kiwis, was seen as having accepted Nyon’s orders and voted for Colombia.
Sources close to UEFA and its president, Aleksander Ceferin, have indicated that the European federation’s formal co-operation agreement with CONMEBOL demanded full-hearted support.
That raises a further question of what value CONMEBOL, with its tainted modern history and propensity to throw its toys out of the pram at every perceived slight, can offer Europe in political terms?
After all, when it comes FIFA Congress each year, the South Americans bring a mere 10 votes to the table. Surely UEFA’s interests – in terms of World Cup bids and presidential elections – would be better served by cosying up to Asia or Africa, each with their 40-plus voting contingent?
In the bad old days of the late Julio Grondona, Ricardo Teixeira, Angel Maria Villar and Co*, it may have made self-protective sense for UEFA to stay close to a historic ally. But now?
It may be argued that CONMEBOL could fall into the political arms of CONCACAF but, while the South Americans are always happy to accept rights cash from the north – as FIFAGate proved – they will always follow their own direct interest. UEFA can expect no reciprocal favours from that strategical direction.
Maybe time to think again.
** Julio Grondona (Argentina) was long-serving FIFA finance chair; Ricardo Teixeira (Brazil) was its bribes-distributing wheeler-dealer; and Angel Maria Villar was long-serving FIFA vice-president who tied Spain and the Mediterranean into South American interests.