US Soccer Brings A Game to Dodging and Weaving About Qatar 2022 – Gives Story Way More Validity

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This is in response to well respected-veteran journalist Jorge Ramos’s radio show’s tweets Thursday that very roughly translated from Spanish that FIFA told USSF to have the 2022 proposal ready to present plan and have an organizing committee ready by Sept or Oct.   Qatar losing the Cup (or might lose the Cup depending on translation). [Note Ramos tweets have been since been removed]

First of all Neil, BRAVO on a BRILLIANTLY stated non-denial denial statement. That is some solid political maneuvering here and  I respect this level of quality professionalism.

That said, why the hell are you all responding at all?

In the middle of the Brazilian World Cup’s First Day, three days before the team you represent plays its opener, you go OUT OF YOUR WAY to respond IN WRITING to an unverified, highly speculative tweets in Spanish.  IT WASN’T EVEN A STORY, just two tweets.

Yes it had fan traction on twitter but nothing especially big.   This would have been a 2 day story at most, especially with no follow-up.  I get that is what you are hoping the released statement does, but to me it gives the initial reports A LOT more credibility.  Let it die in the cycle, no one would remember/care by the end of the Cup.

The only possible rational I can come up with responding is hoping to turn more journalists off the story before they do their jobs and investigate it. In retrospect, that plans seems to actually work so well done I guess.

Sunil Gulati, your boss, was asked about it of course and handled it in a similarly impressive fashion.  You both left an impressive amount of wiggle room in the statements, like enough to drive the entire infantry tank division through them sideways, while appearing to deny it outright.  Let’s be honest, we both know neither of you denied the overall story outright.

Now your word choices are impressive and I can imagine the amount of time you and your team spent parsing exactly the right phrasing.

Well played, I especially like the choice of, “[t]he report is not accurate[,]” not even using, “inaccurate,” just, “not accurate,” as opposed to say, “the story is untrue.”   Those do no mean the same thing at all but most people will not understand the difference.  

The story being untrue is to say, the story in its entirety is false which fundamentally different than stating it is inaccurate meaning facts presented are incorrect but not touching on the overarching validity of the story. You went with the softest possible word choice in your denial. 

According to a report in Foxsoccer.com states the NY Times Sunil as quoted as saying, “‘[s]imply not true,’ … ‘They haven’t asked us and I cannot imagine it happening anytime soon.'” Now, I agree that would have been a strong, “flat-out,” as it was called denial were it not for the qualifier where he is denying the part where of the story where USSF was “asked.”  [It is not clear who at the NYT interviewed Gulati, best guess is Sam Borden who quoted Gulati in his twitter feed with a couple of disjointed tweets.]

The over theme of these responses is this:  spin it to the media as the formal request was not made in a vague enough manner that it allows the reader to infer the entire essence of the story is false without saying that.

That is the part that I find funniest and the reason that I find these responses so suspect.  I have zero problems believing this is true; there has been no FORMAL contact between FIFA and USSF.  Also there does not need to be.

The timing of all of this given them tons of wiggle room:  The Ramos Show tweets come out two days ago, June 12, 2014 and the responses are either Thursday (from Sunil) whenever Neil Buethe, posted sent his statement.

It is what happened a few days before the report and response, the  FIFA’S Executive Committee (ExCo) meeting June 7th and 8th.   Here is their meeting agenda, pay close attention to parts 8,13.4 and 14.3.

Now, I have no idea what those meeting points entailed in the meeting but what I do know who sits on ExCo, drumroll… Sunil Gulati.   It is disturbing how many journalists/media people either forget this fact or do not intellectually grasp its significance.

There are a couple of reasons this is exceptionally important, first of all.  Sepp Blatter put his boy on ExCo err Sunil was duly elected to ExCo.  Remember all those Blatter’s cronies are corrupt comments may or may not apply to Blatter crony and the President of US Soccer Federation.  I am in no way attempting to cast aspersions on Sunil’s character or morality but just reminding people that he used USSF’S vote to keep Sepp in power AFTER the QATAR VOTE [to be fair, Sepp did vote for the US bid and is not accused nor has any evidenced released shown he was involved in any bribes on the 2018/2022 bids].

The more important reality is Sunil Gulati is not simply the lovable, nerdy, econ prof who gracious leads US Soccer out of the kindness of his noble heart as the media LOVES to present him. REALITY CHECK:  He’s got game and more than willing to use it.  

The ExCo thing is IMPORTANT because FIFA is building a case to move the Cup.  They absolutely are and for one simple reason: cold hard cash money. There is a secondary reason of revenge but that is only Sepp based.

I was accused Thursday of, “thinking like a normal person, not a FIFA exec,” and, “conjuring logic that FIFA doesn’t have.”  Granted those should be taken as compliments.  Look, I am under no delusions about the motivation of FIFA and especially ExCo members.  I do not think they do anything not in their own financial and/or egocentric interest.  They like money.. and they like power.  This Qatar bid nonsense is costing them both and that cannot be tolerated.

Starting last October 3-4, 2013, the first of Sunil’s membership incidentally or not, changes are made to the structure of ExCo meet agendas to what we have now.  The agenda is much more organized and clearer and now we have and agenda area entitled, “Sports-political matters.”  It covered what looks to be a briefing on, “Israel-Palestine situation: discussions in Zurich on 3 and 23 September 2013,” and, “FIFA World Cup Qatar™: period of the competition.”  You know that moving it to winter financial/logistical fiasco.  Two months later in December 2013,  the agenda just went with “2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™.”

In March 2014, it gets super interesting.   There is both an, “Update from the FIFA Secretary General [Jérôme Valcke] on the preparations for the tournaments [WC 2018 and WC 2022],” as well as under the, Sports-political matters banner, “Update from the FIFA President on the Israel-Palestine situation, the Kosovo situation, the Cyprus situation, and the working conditions in Qatar.”   YES, that FIFA President, oh Sepp.

These same sports-political topics topics, all of them, came up at ExCo meeting 5 days ago in São Paulo. Yet 2 days after that at the 64th FIFA Congress,  São Paulo 2014, the agenda covers, “Updates on Israel-Palestine, Kosovo, Cyprus,” but curiously Qatar did not quite make the cut to discuss at Congress.   The Congress is the annual meeting of all the FIFA members, basically the ONLY time in 2014 all the members will be there.   The next Congress is May 2015, at home in Zurich.

Pulling all of this back to the response of USSF gave to the Ramos tweets and why it is so clear that USSF is not really denying them, just denying they were formally asked.

ExCo makes decisions about the location of the World Cup of what which Sunil is a member of course.  Those decisions come from research of the, “Organising [sic.] Committee for the FIFA World Cup (TM),” who them report to ExCo on their findings.. Guess who sits on that organizing committee?   That is right girls and boys, Sunil Gulati.   Yes, the guy FIFA would call to say prepare a plan is the guy at FIFA who request it and then voting on it.

This is why the nuancing of the denial is so key.  USSF does not need formal contact from FIFA if their President is part of the decision making team.

For the record, Sunil is also Chair of the Media Relations Committee, tasked with organizing the, “working conditions for the media at FIFA events and maintain relations with international media organisations.”  Basically, he is FIFA’s faceman.

He is also Vice-Chair of Players’ Status Committee, required to “set up and monitor compliance with the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players and determine the status of Players for various FIFA competitions.” It is unclear is if they have any responsibility for player safety at say a summer World Cup in Qatar or if that is strictly the responsibility for the medical committee.  The Players’ Status Committee made seemingly major changes to player/agent relationships and third party ownership at ExCo last week.

Additionally, he sits on the Associations Committee, which is responsible for maintaining, “relations between FIFA and its Members and draw up proposals for optimum cooperation. The committee shall also monitor the evolution of the Statutes and regulations of FIFA, the Confederations and Members.”

So we clear Sunil Gulati sits on the committee that recommends and overseeing the Organization of the World Cup and on the committed that keeps members happy, is Vice-Chair of the committee that controls player contracts, chairs the committee responsible for playing nice with the media and then sits on the committee that vote for the changes to the 2022 World Cup venue.  Yet, we are supposed to believe this story is false because USSF has not been contact about it and does not expect to be anytime soon?  Sunil when are those committees getting on deciding so FIFA can ask USSF?  [If you are interested this is a list of all Americans on FIFA committees including FIFA Ethics Chief Investigator Michael Garcia]

Now then why would FIFA move the Cup?  It is not out of some altruistic sense of righteousness.   This is politics pure and simple.  Sepp wanted the Cup in America and for two very good if basic reasons: a  World Cup in the US is basically a license for FIFA to print money and it takes out enemies.

According to FIFA, they have spent over $2 Billion USD [$1 Billion spent in Brazil] of their own money on operational costs for World Cup 2014.  They will leave the real costs of hosting into the locations: stadium constructions/renovations, construction of roads, transportation systems, hotels, etc to the host nation.  Brazil estimated to pay approximately $13 Billion for the infrastructure development and upgrades paid for by a loan from Brazilian Development Bank.  This s what is causing the rioting in the streets.

By contrast, the US combined 2018/2022 USA Bid Committee economic impact report conducted by ERA/AECOM  the US hosting would cost approximately $10 million per stadium in infrastructure changes including installing grass and perimeter fencing as well as installing or upgrading the media center to accommodate international media.  [for the max 12 WC stadiums that is a $120 mil total].  Additionally,  Atlanta would be the headquarters of the International Broadcast Center (IBC) since it already has a significant amount of media infrastructure in place.  There was not an additional amount of outlays required but a 5% sale tax was assumed.

[I do not remember the economic impact statement ever being publicly released and I read several things that it had not been released but I found it.  It is very interesting, especially using Washington DC metro area’s FedEx Field as hosts of the Final Match at USSF request]

The 2010, 2014, potentially 2018 and 2022 all have a couple of things in common:  serious infrastructure concerns and almost all of the required World Cup level infrastructure being built from scratch.  FIFA could really use a easy one that does not require a $2 billion dollar investment on $4.2 Billion in revenue, which takes almost half their money.  The US Bid would not require nearly that investment and therefore on they would be able to keep a significantly higher portion of the revenue generated.  AND THEY LIKE MONEY.

There is the added pressure of bedrock FIFA sponsors publicly questioning it 7 years out. That has a huge effect and puts significant pressure on FIFA to act to resolve it.  These are massive companies that spend billions on public relations and the one thing that do not want is to be public associated with human rights abuses and deaths.  FIFA does not care what human rights workers or social justice campaigners complain about but the loss of sponsor money and it is a new ballgame.

Secondarily but not insignificant, is the war between Sepp/Platini using FIFA/UEFA as weapons.  The hate each other, Platini has just announced he would not support Sepp’s assumed next run and has threatened in the past to run against him.

Why this massive ego-off matters is Platini was major supporter of Qatar 2022 and still supports it to the point he is supportive of moving it to winter.  A mindboggling decision as it would have a highly detrimental effect on almost the entirety of European club soccer including the Champions League schedule which as President of UEFA is his bread and butter.

Soon it will be open warfare and the FIFA’S Ethics Committee will be primary in that effort.  I believe American Michael Garcia who is heading up the investigation, a former US Attorney and current partner at Kirkland & Ellis, will do a comprehensive and honest investigation leading to a report that accurately reflects what happened and who is at fault.

I think that is why he was chosen but not for the public-spirited ideal of fighting corruption.   Sepp seems to be in no way connected to any ethical violations for the Qatar 2022 bid but his enemies including Paltini are.   This reeks of a White Bulger mob move..   White turned FBI informant on rival mobsters so the US government would take care of them for him.  Sepp got the guy who would investigate and force the removal of his enemies for him and to make it all above reproach.   That is major game. 

It has already started.  Franz Beckenbauer is banned from the game for 90-days conveniently covering the World Cup span.    He is Bayern Munich honorary president, former member of ExCo who voted for the Russia/Qatar block an then stepped down shortly thereafter.  Oh and he is close, very close, to Platini to the point of supporting a Platini FIFA presidency back in 2011.  Enemies are falling..  it will continue.

I think my favorite FIFA move is subtle, simple but brilliantly ruthless renaming of the Stadium and Security Committee to the “Security and Integrity Committee.”  That is a linguistic stiletto between the 4-5 ribs.

Garica’s report is due sometime this summer after this World Cup with its potential recommendations.  The Organising [sic.] Committee for the FIFA World Cup (TM) meets July 11, two days before this final.  ExCo meets again September 25-26, which is exactly the time frame laid out in Ramos’s tweets

Again, I absolutely believe US Soccer when they all say, it is, “not accurate,” that FIFA has not contacted them.  I do not believe that means the overarching story is not true, necessarily. I do not know if the story is true, no idea how good Ramos’s source is but the independent facts and USSF response do not in any way discredit it.

If you doubt that Sunil is capable of some dodging and weaving I will remind you of this moment just a few weeks ago.  Phil Schoen reports finally the Copa American 2016 in America is a done deal down to the date of the announcement.  Sunil responds saying, ” Copa America 2016 in U.S.? Interesting idea but nothing agreed to by @ussoccer yet.”

As I responded then and still do now, non-denial denials FTW.

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