World Cup bid voting patterns make no sense
Congratulations to Qatar's one million people: I hope you enjoy hosting the world's largest sporting event. You have 12 years to build stadiums and a soccer tradition. You will burn an ungodly amount of fossil fuels air conditioning 12 stadiums, but the one thing you have is an ungodly amount of fossil fuels.
We have no proof that FIFA is corrupt the same way that we have no proof that Barry Bonds took steroids. What we do know is that FIFA makes some very strange decisions and that they hate transparency. They did, however, release the results of each round of voting, and it helps you understand why they hate transparency so much. The voting patterns make no sense. Look at this:
2022 round 1:
Australia: 1 Japan: 3 Korea Republic: 4 Qatar: 11 USA: 3
Okay, let me stop you right there - who's voting for Korea and Japan? They were universally recognized as weak bids, and yet they get a combined seven votes to a combined four votes for the USA and Australia? What's going on? But it gets even more strange:
2022 round 2:
Japan: 2 Korea Republic: 5 Qatar: 10 USA: 5
Now this really doesn't make sense. Remember, only one vote from the previous round was now up for grabs (Australia's), so why all the shifting? The equation was almost identical to the first round. And yet, people were changing their minds. It looks like somebody probably switched from Japan to Korea...why? What changed in that voter's mind between round 1 and round 2? You could speculate that if a voter has a second-favorite, and he (no gender-neutral pronoun necessary...they're all men) feels like his first choice is going down, then he might switch to his second choice. But Japan was really in no worse of a spot than Korea or the U.S., so why would the voter change? It only makes sense if he knows that the Australia vote is going to the U.S. (and it looks like that Australia vote probably did go to the U.S.) and he wants to make sure that Korea stays in the running. But remember: this is supposed to be a secret ballot...they're not supposed to KNOW who was the Australia vote. And it looks like somebody also jumped ship from Qatar to the U.S. in round 2...again, why? If Qatar's your first choice, then why wouldn't you stick with Qatar when they're one vote away from an absolute majority? I don't get it. Am I not seeing something? Any behavioral economists reading this who can make sense of this pattern?
2018 had similar vote shifting, although it's a bit easier to explain: it looks like two of the four Netherlands/Belgium backers in the first round jumped ship and backed Russia over Spain. Still very odd, though, that England, the only country to meet FIFA's revenue projections, got doubled up by the dark horse Netherlands/Belgium bid.
None of this is evidence of corruption - in fact, I don't think it's even circumstantial evidence of corruption. But I do think it's evidence of some very strange - I would say illogical - decision making. Just what criteria was most important to the voters? Bringing the World Cup to new locations? Okay...then why no love for Australia, and why so many votes for Spain, Japan and Korea? Also, it was ex-England and ex-Korea voters who put Russia and Qatar over the top. The voters gave a surprising number of votes to the Belgium/Netherlands "green World Cup" bid...and then gave the 2022 Cup to Qatar and it's air-conditioned, disposable stadiums. Obviously, FIFA seemed completely unimpressed by many of the elements that countries were asked to present in their bids, such as stadium infrastructure, travel infrastructure, and attendance projections. The main knock on Australia was it's time zone, but Korea and Japan did surprisingly well. The main knock on the U.S. was the distance between cities, but 2018 went to Russia. I can't find a pattern here.
Check that: I can't find a logical pattern. The cynic in me has no trouble whatsoever explaining the vote.
Sorry this post wasn't funny. I'll make the next one funny.
| December 3, 2010; 8:22 AM ET
Categories: Jeff Maurer, Soccer, United | Tags: Jeff Maurer, U.S. National soccer team, United
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