All candidates for the 2018 World Championships Football have handed over their bid books to the FIFA. Which will be the country that the championships will be awarded to? We have to wait until December 2 but will briefly compare the 6 major candidates and their bids as well as their chances to succeed. The UK and Russia seem to be favored by the bookies, but could they be wrong? 

Bid books for 2018 have been handed over. Delegations from each of the candidate nations have handed over their bid books for both 2018 and 2022 to FIFA. For 2018 the candidates are the UK, Russia, Spain/Portugal, Holland/Belgium, Australia and the USA. The final decision on to whom the World Cup 2018 will be awarded to will be taken on 2nd December 2010 by the 24 members of the FIFA Executive Committee. As history has proven, the best bid will not necessarily always win, as lobbying and politics play an important role in the process. In spite of this, each bidding country still has to demonstrate that: 1. It complies with the bidding process; 2. The anticipated impact on the game and society as a whole; 3. The support from the government, general public and football community; 4. The   Infrastructure and management capabilities to host the tournament; 5. An innovative and meaningful legacy programme for after the event. 

Bid likely to be awarded to Europe. On several occasions FIFA strongly hinted that Europe will be given the 2018 finals, with England and Russia competing against joint bids from Netherlands-Belgium and Spain-Portugal. All four are also in the 2022 race but will be barred if one of them gets the 2018 tournament. If indeed Europe will end up with hosting the World Cup 2018 this would effectively rule out the bids of the US and Australia, who in that case would have to put their focus on 2022. Europe seems to be the preferred choice as the powerful UEFA (which has a large number of votes) wants to see the tournament on the continent again, after South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014. Moreover FIFA also seems to opt for a financially interesting tournament; TV income, ticketing and commercial deals in Europe no doubt would be strong. Although FIFA has stated in the past they would rather not see joint candidacy bids, FIFA’s Blatter specifically stated that this is no longer the case and that these bids will be treated the same as single candidacy bids. 

Politics and lobbying will be key determinants and that makes the outcome so unpredictable. Clearly the content of a bid is important, but politics and the lobby process in the end will be the key. The exact voting procedures to be adopted are still unknown. However, they will involve a majority decision. It means that in order to win, a bid has to have the vote of at least 13 members of the FIFA Executive Committee, which contains 24 members in total. This also means that each member needs to have a second and third choice ready in case their first choice does not make it passed the first vote. As said the exact procedure is not known yet; are the two World Cups being voted in sequence or are they for example being undertaken simultaneously. Those elements can be crucial for the lobbying process. In any case Michel Platini and his UEFA mates have 8 votes (more than any other blocs) out of 24 and no doubt he will encourage his allies to work together for Europe, particularly for round 2 and 3 of the voting process. As said politics will play a vital role. Different blocs will no doubt attempt to make deals in exchange for votes. Who will vote for whom? Will South America go for the Spain/Portugal bid, where will the Africa votes end up (in Russia maybe?) with? The political massaging and powerplay have already begun; England played Trinidad and Tobago in a friendly match in the hope that the CONCACAF president- a native of T&T- would support England’s 2018 World Cup bid. The Netherlands has already been in South Korea (also a member of the Execucutive Committee) with, no surprise, Korea’s much adored Guus Hiddink in the delegation. Coincidentally the proportion of friendly matches in countries with Executive Committee members has gone up over the last year etc etc. In any case without a good lobby a country bid won’t stand a chance! Countries should concentrate on both the first, second and third choices of executive committee members. Strategy required! 

The current bids explained! Clearly all bids are in line with the requirements. It means that all of the candidates have 11 to 12 stadiums capable of housing 40,000 people and one capable of housing 80,000, it means all of them have a legacy, organisational capabilities and government support. Nevertheless all of the bids vary in originality, viability etc. Each of the bids has advantages and disadvantages. We will briefly stand still with each and every bid. 


Theme: Come play!  Australia is emphasising its experience, stability and certainty along with its great hospitality, many volunteers and friendliness. As known the country has a proven track record and has the backing of some famous names. There is no doubt that Australia can organize a great World Cup, but the odds for 2018 seem to be against. Firstly it would mean that for the 3rd time in a row the World Cup would be organised in the Southern Hemisphere, which seems to be a big disadvantage. Secondly there is some opposition from other sports leagues in Australia over stadium usage and scheduling. Thirdly and most importantly, it seems that the World Cup will take place in Europe. Hence we would not be surprised if Australia withdraws from the 2018 bid to concentrate entirely on 2022.   


Theme: The game is in US!  The USA plays the infrastructure card in its bid. The infrastructure is already existent, featuring some of the biggest stadiums in the world and offering large flexibility. The country focuses on the success of the FIFA World Cup 1994, which resulted in strong growth of the sports and now wants to extend that legacy for another 25 years. Additionally the organisation has the support of President Obama. The US would clearly be a safe play; the best infrastructure and scale should be a guarantee for record attendances similar to 1994. That would clearly result in windfall profits for FIFA. Nevertheless chances seem to be second to none as far as the 2018 bid is concerned. Yes, Mexico has announced it will support the bid and possibly some other countries in the region might do this as well, but this will be far from sufficient to convince the other members. As stated, it is very likely that a European candidate will be chosen, whilst an additional disadvantage can be found in the fact that it is not that long ago that the US hosted the World Cup. Again and similar to Australia we would not be surprised when the US would withdraw in order to fully focus on 2022.  


Theme: Together for great goals!  The Netherlands is generally seen as an outsider but they have a great package to offer, which goes beyond the tournament itself. This bid is clearly focusing on social responsibility, emphasising green, environmentally friendly and social themes. A few examples; it will offer a Sustainable Stadium Toolkit to the rest of the world, it will support the development of world coaches in developing nations (Train the trainer) and it aims to organise the most sustainable World Cup ever (giving  2 million bicycles away to fans during the cup). Adding to this, stars such as Ruud Gullit and Johan Cruyff, the countries organisational capabilities (EURO2000) and its famous orange army and we would argue that this is actually a quite charming bid. Will this be sufficient? Some argue that the size of the 2 countries may play a negative role, but one can also turn around this argument by stating that a big event such as the World Cup should not be monopolised by the big countries. Hosting the World Cup in a smaller country would be a good stimulus for many other countries to also organise big tournaments. Moreover, don’t forget that the majority of the FIFA Executive Committee contains members from, you guessed it, smaller countries….. The cons? Both countries have a lot to do on the expansion of their facilities, whilst they run the risk to be muscled out by their larger European rivals. Hence a lot needs to be done on the lobby and political front, but it is far too early to rule this bid out……..A role as outsider fits the lowlands well! 

United Kingdom  

Theme: England United, the World Invited!  England is the clear favourite under the bookies but is this really justified? Obviously the bid is playing out the economic benefits, its heritage and tradition and the popularity of the Premier League. Undoubtedly the UK has a lot to offer. It would clearly bring the highest commercial revenues for FIFA, backed up by the international appeal of the Premier League. Additionally, the infrastructure is already largely in place with a couple of very impressive stadiums lined up. Clearly the UK has football in its DNA, whilst it has been a very long time (1966) ago that it has hosted a major tournament. The fact that the country can organize the World Cup needs no convincing, it has already everything. However, this is also where the danger is. Arrogance and complacency may be on the lure; any hints of England being the divine candidate could be potentially damaging. Additionally the recent Lord Triesman (FA boss and leader of the bid team) scandal might have hurt England’s World Cup ambition. This also reveals another potential danger; the British press being permanently on the look-out for scandals. Summarising the main danger for England is probably the motherland itself! 


Theme: Ready to inspire!  Russia seems to be a very solid contender. The country clearly plays the “legacy” card and tries to position itself as a new hidden continent for football, being a bridge between Eastern Europe with an enormous untapped reservoir of potential new football players; in the last few years football has grown by 50% in Russia. It also believes this could be a catalyst for social change. Additionally the country has promised new stadiums in 13 cities, all of them of the highest qualifications. The fact that the country has never hosted the event before could work in their favour, as Rio has blatantly proven. Finally Russia has deep pockets and a strong team with its key asset, Andreas Herren, who joined after holding the top PR role for years at Fifa, where he is well connected. Nevertheless there are some cons as well. Security is a main concern as are the distances between venues and the touristic infrastructure. With most of the stadiums still to be buid and the difficulties faced by South Africa and Brazil freshly in their minds, FIFA officials may be wary, particularly given the fact that the construction of the Zenith St Petersburg stadium is already behind schedule. In any case Russia should be seen as a formidable contender, particularly given the World Cup’s legacy being far bigger in Russia than in any of the other countries. 



Theme: Two nations, one common goal!  The Iberian bid aims to emphasize the unity between Spain and Portugal and their ability to organise safe, well organised and particularly a fun and entertaining World Cup event. The bid seems to lack a real legacy or theme and seems to be relatively introspective (for example no website in English etc). Nevertheless, the joint bid of Spain and Portugal is seen as a strong contender. The bid will probably get the support of the South American bloc Conmebol (good for 3 votes), whilst Spain and Portugal have a strong tourist infrastructure and two of the best stadiums (Bernabeu and Nou Camp) in the world, a desire for any tournament organizer. Both countries have good organising skills, having recently hosted some big tournaments. The latter could of course also be seen as a negative, whilst the country is also facing this other big negative: the state of the economy, which is not an easy one to pass by. 

Bookies still go for England, but race is far from over……I personally would be surprised when either the USA, Australia or Spain/Portugal would win the bid for 2018. The UK and Russia should be regarded as the big favourites, but I wouldn’t rule out the Holland/Belgium bid, which receives a lot of sympathy. We have to wait and see! If we have to believe the bookies it will be England, followed by Russia. Here are the odds of Betfair: England 2.54, Russia 3.5, Australia 5.5, Portugal/Spain 7.4, Netherlands/Belgium 12, USA 20. However we know, the bookies are not always right…….

 The Giro has left Holland again and what a treat and spectacle it was! Loads of spectators, a party atmosphere, spectacular races in a scenic background and some happy racers and organizers. Although hosting the Giro has not come cheap and might possibly result in cost overruns, it has been pure promotion for the sports of cycling and for the country of the Netherlands. It shows again that Holland is perfectly able to host big events. One point of criticism: it would have been a great opportunity to leverage the sports to kids, a missed chance. Let’s hope this mistake will be corrected during the start of the Tour de France in Rotterdam later this year.

Giro in cycling mad Holland. The Giro has left Holland again and over the next few weeks will take place again on traditional soil in Italy. But what a celebration it was. Similar to the Vuelta, the Giro also managed to attract hundreds of thousands of spectators, who all seemed to enjoy the sports to the fullest. Holland is a cycling mad nation, where everybody is brought up on a bicycle (in fact Amsterdam counts more bicycles than habitants). In this perspective it is not surprising that the country embraces the few opportunities it obtains to witness the icons of the sports during one of the most important races of the season. Not surprisingly the organisers were happy with the great reception and support, as were a lot of the riders, many of them not being used to the enormous crowds.

Spectacular races in beautiful setting. The Netherlands coloured pink rather than orange during the first three days of the Giro, showing great hospitality. Watched by more than 150,000 people the race started with a time trial in Amsterdam on a pontoon in the middle of a pond in front of the Rijksmuseum and went on through a beautiful Dutch setting of Amsterdam canals and bridges to finish in front of the city’s Olympic stadium. The 2nd and 3rd stage were no different with beautiful pictures of the Dutch countryside including the famous Deltaworks, windmills and many waterways, again watched by hundreds of thousands people. Although plagued by many crashes (partly on the back of Holland’s “beloved” road furniture), the races were no way different than spectacular. Particularly the feared race to Middelburg brought everything you could wish for; side winds broke the peloton and resulted in huge time differences.

Economic benefits might have been overrated…….It remains to be seen whether the organisations in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Middelburg have been profitable. The costs in Amsterdam and Utrecht amounted to EUR 5.5mln and EUR 2mln respectively and are unlikely to have been fully covered by sponsoring. Nevertheless Amsterdam and Utrecht claim that the direct and indirect generated revenues are a multiple of the organisation costs. Amsterdam claimed it would generate revenues of EUR 25mln. It doesn’t require rocket science to conclude that this amount is unlikely to have been realised. The EUR 25mln was based on 500,000 visitors, whilst in reality it is unlikely that the 300,000 number has been passed. Clearly some of these people have taken the train, have smoked, taken the train etc. Some of them might even have stayed for the night but it remains the question whether incremental spending has been that substantial. Firstly many of the visitors were from Amsterdam itself and just took advantage of the occasion, secondly what would these people have spend when they would not have visited the Giro? Additionally one can state that some companies might even have suffered as their stores were difficult to reach. In any case the biggest economic impact might actually have come from the racing teams, organisation and journalists who stayed in Amsterdam for 3 days. That might add up to some EUR 3mln, but is still far off the EUR 25mln. We have to wait and see the outcome, but should not forget the unquantifiable effects before coming up with a verdict.

Social and promotional benefits substantial……The long term effects might be substantial. Firstly the Giro has been broadcasted in 160 countries, watched by many millions of people. As the Italian producers showed plenty of pretty pictures, Holland was shown at its best. Clearly this may result in future visitors of the country. In that perspective one can see the investment as advertising expenditure. As important are the social benefits. The Giro proved that big sports events are appealing to many, which is important for the country’s ambition to host the 2028 Olympic Games and should broaden the platform for support. Hosting the Giro also showed the country’s ability to organise and should help in attracting more events.  

Missed opportunity to leverage the sport. But benefits could have been even bigger. One of the pillars of the Olympic plan is the “Sports for All” ambition in which everybody should enjoy a life of sports. In this perspective particularly sports amongst children should be stimulated. The Giro would have been an excellent platform to leverage this ambition. Dressed in pink, loads of children witnessed the race. At least the Amsterdam organisation organized several side events on a local level, but I can imagine more could have been done, particularly on a national level. That is to blame the National Cycling Union (KNWU), they missed an opportunity to promote their sports to future members. Hopefully they correct their mistake when Rotterdam is hosting the Tour de France later this year! Ending on a positive note, watching the Giro is asking for more!

Last weekend FC Twente was crowned as the new Dutch national football champions. This may have come as a surprise to many, certainly given the club’s history of almost being bankrupt just 7 years ago in the 2002/03 season. Strong leadership, a prudent policy, a strong team with high self esteem and a solid fanbase are the main pillars behind the success. We explain why. 

FC Twente? Foreigners may ask FC Who? However that would do the club injustice. FC Twente has been around in the Dutch League since 1965 and is a household name to the Dutch. The club only relegated once, played many times in Europe and sees itself as the pride of the eastern part of The Netherlands (note that FC Twente is named after a region in the East). In all these years the club never managed to become Dutch national champion albeit that they were very close in 1973/74, when they just lost out to Feyenoord.  In the 2002/03 season the club went almost bankrupt but since then it has risen from its ashes with this year’s championship being the cream on the pie. It has not been the locker room mental pep talk of Al Pacino which has brought the club this success but a mixture of different reasons, which we explain below.

1. The team. More than any other club in the Dutch Eredivisie (Premier League) FC Twente has been an example of a team without any prima donnas. There may have been stronger teams in the league, but none of them showed as much unity and mental toughness as FC Twente. With team discipline and character, the team won a lot of its matches in the last quarter of its games. Bryan Ruiz, Nkufo and Douglas are probably the big names in the team, but mentioning only these guys would fail to recognize the effort of all the other players, without whom Ruiz, Douglas and Nkufo would not have been able to excel. 

2. The coach and staff. The success of FC Twente is also the success of coach Steve McClaren. After having been written off in the UK, McClaren has come back with a vengeance. In just 2 years time, he managed to make the club national champion, after having already finished in the number 2 position last year, so no coincidence here. This should be seen as a formidable achievement, particularly given the number of important players that left the club last year. Few people would have given even a dime for Twente’s chances after the departure of Braafheid, Elia and Arnautovic. However, their replacements Tiendali, Ruiz and Stoch proved them wrong. The merits for this should clearly go to McClaren and his technical staff (including the scouts).

3. The Management. As stated earlier, FC Twente almost went bankrupt just 7 years ago with debt of around EUR 14mln, were it not for Herman Wessels and its current chairman Joop Munsterman, who took charge in 2004. Munsterman, who made his career in the newspaper business, has been the big architect behind the revival of FC Twente. He is known as a tough reorganiser and negotiator. With the help of Enschede, several sponsors and the founders of the stadium, he managed to salvage FC Twente and wrote black figures in 2005 and ever since. Thrift, prudence and hard work have been the main elements of Munsterman’s policy. He managed to grow the budget from just EUR 11mln in 2003 to EUR 33mln in the current season, making Twente the 4th biggest club of The Netherlands as far as turnover is concerned. With the prospects of the Champions League, this budget should grow even further to well above EUR 40mln in the coming year, implying the club will pass Feyenoord. Twente’s new stadium, the “Grolsch veste” has been instrumental behind this growth. In 2008 the club moved into this 24,000 spectator stadium, increasing capacity by 11,000 and hence substantially increasing turnover. This year capacity will be further increased to 32,000. The club managed to obtain the ownership of the stadium through a mortgage loan. However, the incremental operating income (including catering etc) of the stadium more than compensates the financial charges of these loans. Although debt is substantial (> EUR 30mln) and will rise further with the current expansion, this should be no problem. Firstly this debt is largely related to the stadium (serving as collateral). Secondly FC Twente is paying off this debt as the club is generating positive cash flow and also is using part of the proceeds on players. Secondly, players are valued at zero on the balance sheet! Thirdly, player salary costs are relatively low at only 52.4% of sales. Hence, from a financial point of view, FC Twente is one of the healthiest clubs in The Netherlands, which is reflected by the category 3 rating of the Dutch Football Union. All in all one can say that the management team of FC Twente has done a remarkable job! And the end is not in sight. No doubt Munsterman and friend will try to further leverage the function of the stadium; there are plans to make the Grolsch veste a regional centre for science, education, sports and recreation. A hotel, railway station, congress center, offices, skating hall, healthcenter etc should arise. Hence plenty of room to leverage!

4. The region and fanbase. FC Twente’s fanbase has been instrumental for its success. The club has always had a very loyal fanbase. The values of the club are football, atmosphere and solidarity, whilst the club is a symbol for the region. Hence the club has 10 official supporters clubs spread across the region. This hinterland should guarantee that the new extra capacity of the stadium will be filled up. The success of the club should fill the traditional laid back and reserved population with confidence, which should be good for the region. Additionally FC Twente is one of the leading clubs as far as socially responsible policy is concerned being active in many different educational and public health projects in the local district, an example of being good neighbours. This is exactly what Twente binds and connects to the region and vice versa.  

5. The league. Clearly the Dutch Eredivisie is not what is used to be. Quality has clearly detoriated and the height of a budget is by no means a guarantee for winning the league. Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord used to win the league each and every year, but these clubs no longer manage to outpace the competition as FC Twente and AZ last year have clearly proven. The main reason has been that it has become increasingly difficult to retain top talent. Obviously this has resulted in a nore exciting competition but clearly at the expense of quality.

The miracle of the east; FC Twente has proven it can be done! A club can become champion with a solid policy, good financial management and a good technical staff. In contrast with AZ Alkmaar, which entirely depended on a rich maecenas, the FC Twente model looks more sustainable. Nevertheless, the proof will be in the eating of the pudding. Twente will face two major challenges in the coming year; the pressure of being national champions and the departure of several key players (Ruiz, Douglas, Perez?) and possibly Steve McClaren. That won’t be easy and chances of a repeat performance are likely slim. So we said last year…….but then again, maybe it pays off to just put in that dime of last year……….