For World Cup in Russia and Quatar

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6 Dec 2010

This is my latest comment from Fund Strategy.

The sour response to England’s failure to win the 2018 World Cup bid suggests that many people in Britain are out of touch with the modern world. Such parochialism has damaging consequences which go far beyond football.

Many commentators seem to believe that England has an almost divine right to host global sporting events on a regular basis.

They seem unaware both of changing international realities and Britain’s structural weaknesses. These factors hold whatever the truth about dodgy deals being done within international football circles.

Britain has to come to terms with the fact that its position relative to the rest of the world has already declined considerably. With the rise of emerging economies it looks certain to fall further still.

Today Britain accounts for only about 3% of global output while its population of 60m accounts for less than 1% of the world’s total. Yet it has already held one World Cup and three Olympics. In contrast neither Russia (in its post-Soviet guise), with a population of about 140m, nor the Middle East, with a total population of about 325m, have until now held either.

All these large populations include substantial numbers of avid sports fans. The idea that Britain, as the originator of football, has a monopoly on passionate supporters is both naïve and ludicrous.

It should also be acknowledged that Britain’s ageing infrastructure is a handicap for any serious sporting bid. Many British commentators heaped derision on India for problems in the accommodation for athletes in the recent Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Yet Britain’s transport system is so feeble that it cannot manage to run a proper train service from Tunbridge Wells to London after a little snow.

In contrast, the economic rise of emerging economies will mean that more of them have the capacity to host global sporting events. Not only will such countries include many keen sports fans but they will have the resources to host international competitions.

However, it is important to recognise that the decline of Britain in relative terms does not mean that its people have to lose out in absolute terms. On the contrary, it is quite possible for the quality of life to rise in Britain even though the country accounts for a smaller share of global activity.

Think what the world would be like if football was restricted to Britain and perhaps a few other countries of the old empire. It would make it much easier for England to host a World Cup but as an event it would be far less important and exciting.