Putting aside the allegations from an outraged English media that FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia was “corrupt”, why didn’t the “almost impeccable” bid from England win the day?
After all, we had sent Prince William, Prime Minister David Cameron and the King of English football, David Beckham, to seal the deal in Zurich.
I think the answer may lie in some of the comments printed in today’s papers as the English press and people involved in the bid continue to point the finger of blame firmly away from our shores.
The acting Chairman of the FA, Roger Burden, has withdrawn his application for the role on a permanent basis and is quoted as saying:
“I recognise that an important part of the role is liaison with FIFA, our global governing body,” he said. “I am not prepared to deal with people whom I cannot trust and I have withdrawn my candidacy.”
Prince William is alleged to have asked a friend in January:
“Why do we suck up to these FIFA people?”
Gary Lineker is also reported to have said:
“I hated crawling to FIFA people who I have very little respect for.”
Doesn’t sound like their attitude towards fostering close relationships with the decision makers in FIFA was very positive does it?
I think the most telling quote came from Miguel Angel López, the head of the Spain-Portugal bid;
“The fish is already sold”
The comment came when he was talking about the opportunity for further lobbying on the day of the announcement, clearly believing that the voting intentions of the FIFA committee had already been decided in the minds of the inviduals. This seemed to be echoed by Vladimir Putin who decided not to attend, in order not to put too much pressure on the people voting.
Not so England, who steamed in with their 3 big hitters and “the best presentation”. Unfortunately they were far too late with the vital relationships already formed months and even years earlier.
With the comments from people involved with the bid mentioned above it is little wonder that England only generated 2 votes in the first round and were thus eliminated. If you are not prepared to put in the effort to build effective, respectful and valuable relationships with people who you may want to sell to in the future, why should you be surprised when you turn up at the last minute and find they are not interested in buying from you?
By all accounts, Russia has spent a long time working with the people that make the decisions in FIFA, building trust, taking time to understand their motivations and putting together a bid that would best match FIFA’s needs. There are apparently 34 FIFA committees where much of the lobbying and deal making goes on. England only have 8 representatives, how can they expect to exert any real influence in the decision making process when we are clearly not committed to taking part?
When England first decided to bid for the 2018 World Cup the FA took the sensible step of appointing a former senior FIFA employee to build and improve relations with FIFA. After Lord Triesman was appointed Chairman of the FA the services of the former senior FIFA employee were no longer needed. Another telling signal for the people at FIFA. When we opposed Sepp Blatter in his bid to retain his position in FIFA, and the great British media launch attacks on FIFA’s integrity prior to the vote we can’t really be surprised to find he wasn’t wholly supportive of England’s bid. We are hardly coming across as warm willing bed fellows are we?
Read most of the press reports on what has happened and is clear that very few people involved with the bid appear to be taking any responsibility for doing anything wrong in the process and everyone instead is blaming “Jonny Foreigner” who is not to be trusted, because after all we had the best bid.
The situation won’t change until the English FA/media change their attitude and start to look at how they need to change and adapt to the needs of the people who make the decisions on where the world cup goes. It’s FIFA’s competition if we want to play we need to play by their rules.
FIFA were interested in buying a product and were considering all the options open to them and inviting suppliers to bid for the deal. The English FA were one of those invited to tender. The power therefore lay with FIFA and adopting an arrogant, “we’re the best there is” approach is never going to endear you to anybody. It’s the same as selling anything, you need to demonstrate that you have your client’s best interests at heart. There are a number of ways to show this:
1) Take time to understand the needs of your client and their hot buttons (i.e. what their main priorities are, what excites them the most)
2) Take time to explain who you are, what your values are, how you believe you might be able to work together to their benefit as well as yours. Don’t assume the client will know this even if you are the Mother nation in football terms.
3) Think about how you can best match your product/service to meet your client’s needs and not yours.
4) Think about your competition, if you understand their strong points and how they might appeal to your client you can counter them/match them with your products/services/experience
5) Take time to build solid effective relationships. It takes time to build trust and confidence in each other. The old adage is still true, people buy people first. Giving an image of superiority, arrogance and not paying sufficient attention to your client is a recipe for disaster.
These are just a small sample of ideas, I’m sure you can think of others, but one thing the English need to do, whether it is the FA, the media, whoever, they need to get over this arrogant idea that everyone should be begging us to host the World Cup because we invented the game. As Sepp Blatter pointed out that was the Chinese!