What you need to know about the U.S. World Cup bid evaluation

This post is rather long, and a bit dense. But I hope you'll read all the way through it, because there's a lot of information here.

You may have heard by now that FIFA released all of its evaluation documents for the cities bidding to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups yesterday. It took me a little while to get through everything, but here is something of a Cliffs Notes version of what's in the documents.

All of the evaluation documents are posted here. They run between 40 and 50 pages each, and are worth reading if you have the time.

This post will be divided into three sections: notable references to Philadelphia in the U.S. evaluation; general analysis of the U.S. evaluation; and general analysis of the Qatar evaluation, since that is the main (and most controversial) competition to the U.S. bid.

First off, here are some notable references to Philadelphia in the document. Although no specific facilities are named other than the stadium itself, we do get a glimpse into some of the information that was in the gigantic U.S. bid book.

4.1 Stadiums

Host City: Philadelphia
Stadium name: Philadelphia World Cup Stadium
Current net/gross capacity (VIP/Media/loss of seats): 66,011/69,111 (600/2,500/0)
Expected net/gross capacity: 66,011/69,111
Construction status: Built, with no further renovation indicated
Lighting: 3,038 lux *

Owner/Investors/Investment budget: City of Philadelphia/No investors/USD 0m
Current use: Philadelphia Eagles

* - This ranks 5th among the 18 cities. New York is first and Phoenix is last.

4.11 Transport

Subsection: Transport at national level

The only high-speed rail connection in the USA at the moment - and the only one currently providing acceptable rail travel times between proposed Host Cities - runs from Boston to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.


[T]he average travel time between the Host Cities is still longer than acceptable. Only the connections between the cities in the north-east (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.) and between Los Angeles and San Diego could be considered feasible.

Subsection: Transport at host city level

The Houston, Kansas City, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, D.C. stadiums are located further from their city centres, and transfer times between key venues, including their transport hubs, are longer. However, due to their well-developed infrastructure, these cities would be able to meet the tournament requirements.


Baltimore, Boston, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, D.C. airports handle between 20 and 40 million passengers per year and would cope easily with the tournament requirements, having passenger throughput of at least 50,000 in the ten hours before and after matches.

Annexe 2

From a map of the region

The map is a bit hard to figure out, because the highway that should be the Vine Street Expressway doesn't go all the way across the city.

Still, it looks like the designated fan fest site is the Ben Franklin Parkway near the Art Museum. The location is west of the (shortened) Vine Street Expressway and north of Market Street. The map is on page 40 of the PDF if you want to look for yourself.

Now let's look at some of the more general language in the report about the bid as a whole. The way I'll present this stuff is to put up a block quote, then my analysis.

1. Letter from the chairman

Text: FIFA's bidding process is based on the principles of transparency and equality, and the Bidders have received rules as well as guidance from FIFA in order to ensure comprehensive and specific documentation of their candidature ... We feel we have accomplished our work in the spirit of integrity, objectiveness and transparency.

Analysis: I just had to put that part up there. We've all heard by now about the corruption allegations and the fact that two of the 24 members of the Executive Committee have been suspended for being willing to take bribes from an undercover reporter from the Times of London. Transparency and equality indeed.

4.6 Stadiums

Subsection: Analysis and comment

Text: All stadiums would meet the pitch size requirements of 105 x 68 metres (pending event specific adjustments). ... The opening match and final could only be hosted in the New York, Washington, Los Angeles or Dallas stadiums ... Seven stadiums (Dallas, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and Tampa) seem to have limited public transport links to their respective city centres.

Analysis: None of this is surprising. We know Lincoln Financial Field's surface will have to be expanded to host World Cup games, and we saw them do it for the U.S.-Turkey game back in May. Clearing that hurdle is a big deal.

As for transportation, for as many drawbacks as SEPTA has, we should keep in mind that there a lot of other cities in this country that have little to no public transportation at all. I'm surprised Indianapolis didn't make the above list - I was just there a few weeks ago and I only saw one public bus on my entire trip. So Philadelphia looks good in this respect.

Subsection: Conclusion

Text: All 18 stadiums are built with no further renovation indicated, and neither structural renovation nor construction plans are forseen.

Analysis: You know that line will go up in flashing lights as part of the U.S. bid. Every World Cup held in my lifetime except one has seen new stadiums built or existing stadiums renovated. That one was 1994, and it was held in the United States.

4.10 FIFA headquarters

Text: It is proposed to have two separate FIFA headquarters: one for the first stage of the competition and the other of the second stage. Information is only given on the FIFA headquarters proposed for the first stage, the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. ... [I]t should be noted that the rack rate for a standard room in the Mandarin Oriental is high (USD 750).

Analysis: Wouldn't we all like to have that problem?

4.11 Transport

Subsection: Conclusion

Text: In general, the candidate Host Cities have well-developed infrastructure and experience in managing crowd flows for events and sports contests. In addition, the capacity of the airports and the competitiveness of the aviation market in the USA would ensure reliable air transfer, even though the country's vastness and geographic location imply a dependence on air travel.

Moreover, the fact that some air travel times are longer than two hours would make it necessary to "cluster" group-stage matches to reduce internal transfer times.

Analysis: Western Europe has a much bigger and more-established rail network than the United States does. Whether you are a fan of train travel or not (and I freely admit that I am), it's not surprising that a Europe-based evaluation of America's transportation infrastructure incorporates an analysis of our passenger rail system.

But while FIFA may be corrupt, it isn’t stupid. Nor are the fans who will come here from abroad. If people are going to travel from coast to coast by rail - and I've done it twice - then they will know in advance how long it takes.

Everyone knows it is easier and faster to fly, and that is how people will travel long distances. The U.S.' previous experience hosting a World Cup proved that this won't be too much of a problem.

4.17 Media and marketing rights

Text: The TV ratings are affected by what time of the day the match is shown live in each territory of the world. In the past (and the same will still apply to the 2014 FIFA World CupTM), TV income from the world's markets has not been evenly spread: Europe still generates the largest share. There is a risk of reduction in TV ratings from Europe should the FIFA World CupTM be hosted in the USA.

Analysis: This is one of Qatar's big selling points. In 1994, most games were played in the afternoon in U.S. time zones so that they could be broadcast live in prime time in Europe. If ESPN or Fox or any other American TV network throws a lot of money into this, expect them to want to have some influence over kickoff times.

4.20 Legal and Government Guarantees

Text: No exemption from taxation in the USA is granted to FIFA and other beneficiaries, with the exception of the revocable exempt status granted to FIFA since 1994 ... No guarantees, undertakings or confirmations with respect to the protection of FIFA's commercial rights are given; the document only makes reference to the legislation currently in place in the USA.

Analysis: I suspect FIFA is not happy about this, because they want to create a fantasy world where they get the money without any government action that doesn't benefit them directly. I also suspect that there will be some members of the House and Senate who, regardless of where they land on the political spectrum, won't be too happy about giving a big non-American firm all those financial guarantees.

This week, the House and Senate passed a resolution which emphasized Congress' support for the World Cup bid and execution. The timing was not accidental, because the U.S. bid's legal risk is classified as "medium" instead of "low." Say what you will about Congress and say what you will about FIFA, but I think we can all understand the politics here.

Now let's take a look at the evaluation of Qatar's bid. This should be fun.

1. Letter from the chairman

Text: FIFA's bidding process is based on the principles of transparency and equality, and the Bidders have received rules as well as guidance from FIFA in order to ensure comprehensive and specific documentation of their candidature ... We feel we have accomplished our work in the spirit of integrity, objectiveness and transparency.

Analysis: Oh, never mind.

4.2 Hosting concept

Text: It states its commitment to building a minimum of nine new stadiums and upgrading three existing stadiums. Two additional new stadium sites have been identified should FIFA require additional capacity and flexibility.

Analysis: Again, all of the United States' stadiums are already built. This may not matter to FIFA, especially given the relative lack of bureaucracy in Qatar. But it's still worth highlighting.

4.6 Stadiums

Text: The proposed stadiums would rely on the effectiveness and acceptance of the proposed technological innovations, such as the climate-control measures, which have not yet been deployed in FIFA World CupTM -sized stadiums.

Analysis: This is a huge part of Qatar's bid. They claim that they will air-cool (if not exactly air-condition) all of the stadiums in order to overcome the ferocious summer heat in the Middle East. But for all of the money Qatar can throw at this, they still won't be able to absolutely prove they can pull it off until the World Cup actually starts. If something goes wrong at that point, it will be too late.

4.11 Transport

Subsection: Conclusion

Text: ... the fact that ten out of the 12 stadiums are located within a 25-30km radius could represent an operational and logistical challenge. Any delay in the completion of the transport projects would impact on FIFA's tournament operations. Moreover, it appears to be difficult to test a transport concept prior to the event under conditions comparable to the FIFA World CupTM.

Analysis: This is as close to straightforward criticism as you will get from FIFA. They are clearly skeptical that Qatar can actually do what they say they can do. As I've said many times already, Qatar will throw an infinite amount of money at this so that all the roads, rails, airports, and whatever else is necessary get built.

It seems like Qatar's emphasis on putting everything in close proximity may have backfired. Obviously, the United States presents the polar opposite challenge, but the language in the U.S. bid evaluation isn't anything like this.

Also, what if fans want to go outside the "official" areas? There will be plenty of things for fans to do, of course. But if fans want to explore Doha, it might not be as easy as it is to explore American cities like Philadelphia and Boston.

4.17 Media and marketing rights

Subsection: TV and media rights

Text: Because Qatar has a time zone of UTC+3, should the FIFA World CupTM be hosted in Qatar, there is unlikely to be a negative impact on TV ratings in Europe and the European media rights income ... It should be noted that a correlation exists between TV ratings and other values related to the FIFA World CupTM, such as the exposure value for FIFA World CupTM marketing rights holders.

Analysis: That second sentence also appears in the U.S. bid evaluation. As I said earlier, this is going to be a factor for European stakeholders, including FIFA Executive Committee voters from Europe.

The bigger question will be whether the summer heat in Qatar affects the scheduling of matches. Traditionally, only one match is played at a time, with the exception of parallel matches in the last round of group play.

Could there be more simultaneous matches in Qatar so that more matches would be played at night? How would that affect European TV networks' schedules and rights fees? Those are questions worth thinking about.

Subsection: Sports marketing and sponsorship market

Text: Qatar is not considered to be an important market for most of FIFA's commercial affiliates.

Analysis: That means something. It might not have a big effect in the end, but the United States is definitely an important market for those "commercial affiliates," especially the ones based in the U.S. For the record, one of those affiliates is Budweiser, which is the official beer sponsor of the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. The consumption of alcohol is banned in Qatar.

Text: The laws of Qatar are written in Arabic with no official translation in any other language, which creates an intrinsic risk concerning all legal relationships in Qatar. Furthermore, as an Islamic country, the laws of Qatar are based on the principles of Sharia, which imposes restrictions on the sale, advertising and distribution of certain goods and services and otherwise may overrule other statutory laws.

Analysis: I know I should stay away from politics, but I find that paragraph to be really interesting. Whether or not FIFA cares about the form of government in a World Cup host countries, it sounds like FIFA is acknowledging that this particular form of government could prevent FIFA from achieving some of its commercial goals.

It will be very interesting to see if the influence of FIFA's commercial partners ends up being a factor in the process.

I hope what I've done here helps us understand the factors at play in the bidding process. FIFA might care about all of them, or some of them, or none of them whatsoever. If they do care about anything, you know it will be how much money they can make in the end.

We will find out once and for all how this ends up when the winning bid is announced on December 2. What do you think will happen?