So I was thinking getting rid of the secret ballot for World Cup bids was probably a good idea at this point. So good an idea, in fact, that I honestly couldn't come up with a reason why the voting was secret in the first place.
Well, you know what they say – ask the man who owns one. You might be surprised that a powerful sports mandarin would waste time humoring a despised blogger, but Chuck Blazer does. Maybe that's one of the reason he is a powerful sports mandarin and I'm not – charm does go a long way.
Not actually anticipating a reply, to be quite honest, I sent Mr. Blazer these questions. His e-mail is pretty easy to find, and I assume I'm not the only one asking him questions these days.
And Mr. Blazer's response – I think this is him, otherwise CONCACAF has an administrative assistant who has him down pat:
In the interests of full context, my boring thank-you response…because HIS reply to that was interesting:
On the extremely slim chance that he's reading – thanks again for replying, Mr. Blazer. He seems like a fascinating pen pal, but he really does better things to do than answer my follow-up questions along the lines of "So what does the USSF need CONCACAF for, at this point?" At some point, I should let real journalists take over.
And no, I wasn't really under the impression he was going to say "By God! I've never thought of it that way! Your brilliant insights have changed my mind – and the way I look at the whole sport! I'll be on the phone with Mr. Blatter this very hour! We MUST have a re-vote!"
But if this is the public reasoning for the secret ballot, then some things need to pointed out.
As far as protecting the game from government interference – in the words of Diogenes, c'mon. Any government sufficiently dastardly to take reprisals against a sports official isn't going to be dissuaded by that official's mere word, in case the vote goes the wrong way. If and when North Korea gets its Executive Committee vote – and it's only a matter of time – I'm pretty sure their representative will have very little protection from this secret ballot policy. People knew how Charles Dempsey voted, after all.
I doubt the ballot was secret from other members of the Executive Committee, either, which defeats the purpose of theoretical Executive Committee member independence pretty thoroughly.
That's assuming that we do want the sport to be independent of government interference. Not to get all smarmy civics class on you, but there's a reason you and I have a secret ballot, while Congressmen and Senators don't. Representatives must be responsible to those who they represent. The same applies here. Dues-paying members of the US Soccer Federation – and, therefore, FIFA – have every right in the world to know who rejected their bid, and why. And why we would want the USSF to continue to deal with them.
And as Blazer points out, since so much of sports are political in other countries…well, to me that's more of a reason for the public to know who's voting for whom. The English public have every right to be furious with the FIFA Executive Committee, and the only one who has come forward so far even promising a future explanation is Blazer.
An official policy of government non-interference which persecutes any hint of anti-corruption legislation, but turned a blind eye to Uday Hussein, is a dead letter at best.
Besides, if governments are likely to use dastardly measures to pressure their representatives to make sure they vote the way the dictator demands…well, maybe those nations shouldn't be on the FIFA Executive Committee to begin with.
I assume Nicolas Sarkozy wasn't really going to have Michel Platini disappeared, in any case.
Those of us mere mortals who must pay taxes and parking tickets might sympathize with FIFA's battle against government in all its forms, but the motivation seems a lot closer to Edward Teach and Al Capone than Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
If I was going to waste any more of Blazer's time, I'd have asked him what ideas he had to reform the process. Giving every member of FIFA a vote might at least make bribery expensive – even Qatar would have trouble bribing 200 people, instead of just 11.
Or have however many nations submit their bids, have an independent panel filter through the ones that are realistic and workable – then choose a winner at random. We still might have been stuck with Russia and Qatar, but I'd trust a Las Vegas roulette wheel over a sealed FIFA bid any day of the week.
In any case, if Blazer is serious about the necessity of change, then he'll have to convince FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, thinks everything is fine.
Well, after all, what's the hurry – the next round of bidding won't be for something like a decade, for a tournament that won't be held until over a decade and a half from now.
And I do believe Blazer did vote for the US in each round, not least because the Guardian's reliability on this topic is now absolutely non-existent.