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UAE risks World Cup embarrassment

May 19, 2008 9:02 by

uae, world cup, footballThe UAE is bidding to host the 2009 and 2010 FIFA Club World Cup. The tournament brings together the Champions League winners from all six continents, playing six matches over a two-week period in January. Australia and Japan are also bidding, the result will be announced at the end of May.

The National, in cheerleading mode, says success for the UAE could greenlight a full bid for the 2018 World Cup. It says the bidding process alone would create benefits for the country’s commercial reputation and demonstrate a readiness to host the world’s largest sporting event.

Adding Emirates’ sponsorship of the next two World Cups, to Dubai Sports City’s stadiums, to the scheduled number of hotel rooms, to Dubai’s enviable marketing budget, to a convenient time slot for European TV viewers, it calculates the UAE would stand a chance of winning. It wouldn’t.

Several countries have already confirmed an interest in staging the 2018 event. England is the early favorite, but it could be run close by China, Russia or Australia. Spain (1982), the US (1994) and Mexico (1986) have the right qualifications, but have all staged the games more recently than England (1966).

A UAE bid would struggle to beat Canada, Greece and Portugal, and, if grouped together with, say Oman, would still fall short of a joint Benelux bid. The main thing in the UAE’s favor would be the novelty of being a Middle East bid.

The reality is that the UAE is tiny. Germany 2006 saw 64 matches in 12 cities (with an average attendance of 52,000). The UAE, at a stretch, could host games in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain - the pitches would not have enough time to recover for the next game. Also, World Cups are staged at the end of the European football season, typically June/July. Nighttime matches and air conditioned stadiums would be required.

A UAE bid might allow the country’s sports administrators to schmooze FIFA bigwigs - and drum up business for local sports marketing agencies - but timewasting bids do not reflect well. The UAE is perfectly placed to stage one-off events (cricket Test matches, rugby and football internationals, possibly an Olympics), but shooting for the World Cup may be a spectacular own goal.

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