It’s easy to see why FIFA, one of the most corrupt organisations in the world, manages to keep going without being challenged. It’s major output, the World Cup, puts everyone in such a good mood they bounce from one tournament to the next on a surge if goodwill.
Brazil has been a success. Forget about the riots and demonstrations before hand, the entire country has been on board, the visitors have been on board and, most importantly, the players have been on board. They’ve put together a month of outstanding games that would warm the hardest of hearts.
But could FIFA make some similar changes to make the game better and the experience better for the fans? Here’s what I think…
1) Sin Bin Players
When England played Uruguay, Godin was booked early on and a few minutes later elbowed an England player in the throat. It was a yellow card offence, but referees always tend to duck dishing out a second yellow in the early part of a game, worried they’ll ruin the spectacle.
Despite being played in largely good spirits, there’s still too many players crowding the referee every time a decision doesn’t go their way. There’s still too many players diving (sorry, simulating – I’m looking at Arjen Robben here). There’s still too many teams cynically fouling as a tactic to disrupt the game – Brazil v Colombia was a master class in this.
With referees worried about the implications of sending off or booking, I’d propose a sin bin for this type of offence. If you crowd the referee and he can touch you with his sin bin card, then you’re off for 10 minutes. Fall over without due cause, take a breather. Much like the magic white line paint has stopped the encroachment at free kicks, a few weeks of players on the naughty step would probably sort these infringements right out.
2) Video referee and time keeper
The ref has plenty to do on match day and it seems ludicrous that he’s still in charge of keeping the time right on top of all his other duties. I’d give that to the video ref. What video ref? I hear you shout! The new one who rules on contentious offsides and penalty decisions as well as the goal line technology.
Most major sports have a referral mechanism for contentious decision, just not football. I’d leave it in the hands of the ref, like in rugby, rather than the players, as in tennis and cricket, but I still think it would be a golden addition to big tournaments.
3) World peace and releasing doves before games
Just go fuck right off FIFA. You do the football, let the UN do the world peace.
4) An effective resale market
The game I went to, England v Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte, was a sell out – I checked two days before the game on the FIFA site. On match day, there were around 5,000 empty seats. Now, every sell out always has some empty seats; sponsors don’t turn up, people are taken ill etc etc, but it’s usually no more than a hundred on a bad day.
Over 5,000 was partly because England were out and some fans didn’t make the trip and partly because it was not a big game so Brazilian fans with stadium tickets decided against having another day off work. The USA V Belgium was even worse… It looked only two-thirds full.
With a sensible organising committee, there would be a resale market. An eBay style site where fans can pass on tickets to other fans, with the caveat being they can only go for face value (plus booking fees).
FIFA’s fight against ticket touts is admirable, but their insistence that tickets can only go to family members or people at the same address after having jumped through several hoops leaves the touts with fertile ground. Tickets were openly being offered on the streets in Belo Horizonte and Rio, but for crazy prices.
The main issue is no one at FIFA will care. Once they’ve banked the money, it’s less important how many folks causally turn up at that games.
5) Pay for a translator
This is is from the official guide:
“Over the next month, all eyes of the world will be on the Rio de Janeiro, headquarter of seven games of the FIFA World Cup 2014 Brazil, including the grand final. Rio will also host international teams and thousands of foreign tourists. The Marvelous City also receives the International Broadcasting Centre ( IBC ) , where images are distributing the largest media event in the world.”
Did they use Google Translate for that?
6) Share the wealth
I’ll start this point with a startling admission… I’ve no idea how FIFA hands out the cash they make from the World Cup to teams who participate. I’ve read that they spend more money on salaries than they do on football development. If that’s the case, then they really are I’m danger of disappearing up their own arsehole.
Ghana and Nigeria both had to firefight player revolts over payments either immediately before or during the tournament. Was their mismanagement involved by their national associations? Almost certainly. Should millionaire players be holding associations to ransom? Probably not, but they are due their fair share. But this multi billion pound organisation has the power, leverage and moral responsibility to ensure the associations they fund are managed properly for the benefit of all. Fingers removed from backsides please chaps.
7) More FanFests
The official fan area was something FIFA got right. Fans from all countries, big screen, entertainment, food and drink. Now, I could make some improvements – cut the beer prices, which were twice that of the Copacabana beach for example – but it was a good, no a great, experience.
The problem was that only host cities had FanFests, which created two problems. Firstly, it prevented millions of Brazilians from feeling part of the party. I stayed in Ribeirao Preto for a week, a city of about 600,000 people and host of the French national team. It was crying out for an official gathering point where everyone could watch the games.
Secondly, I think it might have dissuaded some fans from exploring other cities. Rio is a big draw for tourists, but worrying you might get caught somewhere with no atmosphere for a big game would be enough to keep me near the crowds.
I was told by a guy who was in Germany for the World Cup that host city only FanFests wasn’t a problem as you’re never more than about 90 minutes from a host city. But in Brazil (and Russia up next), the countries are on such a scale that more Fan Fests would be a big improvement.
8) Stop treating fans like animals
With the TV audience always dwarfing the actual fans in the ground, it’s no surprise that turning up at the game felt lots of fans felt like second class citizens. I had my ticket checked four times to get into the ground (compared to once at Wembley for a domestic final). Tickets couldn’t be collected on game day in the host city, but information about when other collection points were open was scratchy. Contacting FIFA took over a week to get an email response, which was just a standard answer copied and pasted from the FAQs on the website and didn’t answer the question. Fans with bags were seen as the lowest of the low – how dare they want to bring a bag with them! – with endless searches and Jobsworths taking out food and drink for not being from official partners. The problem was that many people flew in directly on match day and had no choice but to take bags with them.
All these are small gripes, but talking to fans who had been to a few games and gave a sense of real annoyance about these. It felt like no one had considered the logistics of being a fan in the ground. Some of these may be down to the local organising committee, but as FIFA has the powers to have laws changed in countries that host the World Cup, I’m sure they could organise baggage lockers and someone to manage a customer contact team.