WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — The next World Cup is already mired in controversy.
Weeks after Germany won the thrilling tournament that was filled with drama, new, albeit political drama has encompassed FIFA over the 2018 World Cup in Russia – specifically if Russia should continue to host the international tournament.
The downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine has some feeling that FIFA should strip Russia of the World Cup after the country is accused of giving separatists in eastern Ukraine the surface-to-air missile that took down the plane, killing all 298 on board.
The United Kingdom Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is the latest to call for a different venue for the 2018 World Cup, telling The Sunday Times that failure to “pull the plug on the World Cup” would “make the rest of the world look so weak and so insincere.”
“(Russian President Vladimir Putin can’t constantly … push the patience of the international community beyond breaking point, destabilize a neighboring country, protect these armed separatists in the east of Ukraine and still have the privilege and honor of receiving all the accolades in 2018 for being the host nation of the World Cup,” Clegg told The Sunday Times.
Clegg added: “You can’t have … the beautiful game marred by the ugly aggression of Russia on the Russian-Ukrainian border.”
Jerry Hinnen, CBSSports.com soccer writer who covered the World Cup in Brazil, believes that “it would be nice” if FIFA moved the World Cup from Russia in light of recent events.
“At this stage, it would be nice if somebody else hosted the World Cup,” Hinnen told CBSDC.
In a statement to CBSDC last week, FIFA said that they will still have Russia host the tournament despite what’s happening in eastern Ukraine and the shoot-down of the plane.
“FIFA is convinced that, through football, particularly the FIFA World Cup and its international spotlight, we can achieve positive change in the world, but football cannot be seen as a solution for all issues, particularly those related to world politics,” the FIFA Media Department said in the statement. “We have seen that the FIFA World Cup can be a force for good and FIFA believes that this will be the case for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.”
FIFA added that boycotting sports events is not the most effective way to solve problems.
“The hosting of the FIFA World Cup with the global attention it attracts can be a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments, helping to bring positive social developments. The FIFA World Cup unites teams and nations from all over the world, from the qualifiers to the final competition in a spirit of fair play and respect,” the FIFA Media Department noted.
Hinnen believes even if international pressure is mounted, FIFA will not change its course.
“Four years is really not a whole lot of time to make a switch like this and given FIFA’s bias with the folks in Russia, I don’t see it happening,” Hinnen explained to CBSDC. “I don’t see any way it will be moved before 2018.”
Hinnen added that Putin would have to become an “international pariah” for FIFA to even consider moving the World Cup.
“Russia is going to have to do something completely and inarguably even worse than what we’ve already seen, something where there’s no way to point the blame at anybody else,” Hinnen stated.
Among the 298 people who were killed on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, 194 of them were Dutch. In a statement to CBSDC, the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) said that a discussion about the Netherlands taking part in the 2018 World Cup would be more appropriate to hold at a later time.
“The Dutch FA is aware of the fact that a future World Cup in Russia evokes many emotions at all football lovers and survivors in the Netherlands. During these dark days the FA lives with the family, friends and football clubs of the victims,” KNVB said in a statement. “Standing still to remember our enormous loss is now the priority. The KNVB believes it would be more appropriate to hold the discussion over the future World Cup in Russia at a later time once the investigation into the disaster is completed.”
Hinnen, though, can’t envision the Dutch boycotting the World Cup in four years.
“It would be such a major international brouhaha if the Dutch decided to boycott,” Hinnen said. “Four years, in terms of logistics, is not a very long time. But in terms of outrage levels – I think provided if nothing else happens – I would expect it to die down enough for the Dutch not to boycott.”
Outside of Clegg, German lawmakers also called for Russia to be stripped of the World Cup.
The Associated Press reports that Russia has allocated $20 billion to build and renovate 12 stadiums across the country for the 2018 World Cup. This will be the first World Cup held in Eastern Europe.