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September 7, 2010
What they said at FIFA inspection conference

Sunil Gulati addresses the media at Tuesday's FIFA Inspection Delegation press conference.
Sunil Gulati addresses the media at Tuesday's FIFA Inspection Delegation press conference.
Howard Smith/ISI Photos
NEW YORK -- This is a transcription of quotes from the FIFA inspection delegation press conferece at the St. Regis Hotel Tuesday.

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, head of six-man FIFA Inspection Group, Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer president and chairman of the US Bid Committee addressed the media.

Nicholls did not take questions, while Gulati did.

Opening Comments

"Thank you, Sunil. First of all I would like to really thank all the representatives of the venues and cities that are bidding for this World Cup bid process for 2018 and 2022. The reception we had last night was wonderful and we really enjoyed it. Thanks to the mayors of New York, Nashville and Atlanta who were with us in that reception…We are here on our eighth visit to different bidding countries for these two next World Cups. We are here to get as much information as possible about what this bidding process is presenting to FIFA to run the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

We will in these four days receive as much information as possible to put in our report for the [FIFA Executive Committee] members who, on Dec. 2, will decide which countries will get the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. We are sure we will receive all the information we need and with that information we are also sure we will present to the ExCo members a very objective report so they can have a strong basis for the decisions they will make.

I really thank U.S. Soccer and the bid organization for all their help during the last days in organizing the visit and also for sending us all the information we required for the visit. It will be a pleasure to be here. It will be a pleasure to go to these five venues, and of course it was really nice yesterday to receive information from the other thirteen venues that we will be unable to visit due to the time limit. Thanks again to the U.S. Soccer Federation and thanks to Sunil for all your efforts in the well organized visit that we will have here in the next days."

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati
Opening Comments

"Good morning. Welcome to the official kickoff of the FIFA Inspection Tour for the 2018/2022 World Cups. A big welcome to those of you who are here from our 18 candidate cities, as well as members of the media and guests. It's my great pleasure to introduce Harold Mayne-Nicholls, a longtime friend and the president of the Chilean federation who is head of FIFA's inspection group. He'll make some remarks and then he will be officially starting his inspection of five cities and a number of stadiums and training facilities. He will depart with his team after which I'll make a couple of opening remarks and take any questions from any of the media."

“This is very much a technical inspection tour. They will be looking at facilities, infrastructure, hotels, highways, trains, planes, those sorts of things and obviously our stadiums. They will go from here to Washington to Miami to Dallas and Houston and home on Thursday night. The last stop on the totality of the inspection tour is Qatar, which they will do early next week. It’s an important part of the process. We had a date in May where we submitted the thousands of pages of documents but this is part of the process where they will write a technical report to FIFA’s Executive Committee which will summarize their visit and evaluate the bids more generally. Then FIFA will make a decision on Dec. 2 regarding the placement of the World Cup in 2018 and 2022.

We started last night with a reception. Some of the highlights of the trip are visits to the stadiums. There is a White House breakfast on Wednesday morning, we’re not sure of all the guests but there will certainly be a couple of cabinet members and some senior members of the President’s staff as well as the FIFA group. Bob Bradley is flying in for that as well and will be joining me with the group. [There will be] lots of things with mayors and governors and civic leaders in our cities, starting with New York and Washington today.

FIFA’s routine in this is that they do an opening and a closing statement but they don’t take questions. It’s the same policy they have in all nine of the countries. They let the written reports speak for themselves, but we’re under no restrictions. I’m happy to answer any questions there may be.”

On how the five cities were selected for the tour:

“A lot of it had to do with distances and wanting to be on the East Coast because they are trying to get back to Zurich. It was about trying to make sure they saw three or four things; they wanted to see potential stadiums for the opening and Final. They wanted to see potential sites for the international broadcast center, and third was some training sites and hotels and so on. The first two are obviously very specific in terms of the IBC and stadiums. In a country like the United States we could have done that in different ways. We could have done a West Coast swing because we’ve got multiple stadiums that could meet the 80,000 minimum requirement for the Final. We decided on an East Coast swing because a couple of the newest stadiums we have, obviously one is here in the New York area and one is in Dallas. We wanted to make sure those were part of the process. The nation’s capital seemed like an obvious one. Once we did that, trying to get the rest into three days, there weren’t a lot of degrees of freedom. In an ideal world there would have been a longer trip. We would have loved to have taken them to a game, for example in Seattle, an MLS game, and seen some other venues on the West Coast, but that wasn’t possible.”

On the challenges in convincing FIFA to award the World Cup to the United States:

“The challenge is that it’s not a time trial. We’re not in a race against the clock; it’s a competition, an election. So the biggest challenge is the other challengers. There are some very qualified competitors that have done World Cups, have top leagues and lots of infrastructure. There are others who have proposed different solutions to issues. I think the challenges are that this is going to be a tough fight. We’ve known that since the beginning and it’s been a hard competition so far. I think we’ve done everything we can to date on the technical bid preparation, which is extraordinary, and the second part now, which is convincing 24 people that the technical bid and everything that the United States offers is what they want. We did a lot of that this summer, with President Clinton and Vice President Biden on the ground at the World Cup. They held one-on-one meetings and group meetings with those people. We are visiting all 24 of the Executive Committee members in their home cities. Luckily one of those is 150 meters from here so I think he is on board.

"Other issues that we may face is that we hosted in 1994, which may not have been long enough ago, and I think some of the international community underestimates the passion for the game in the United States. When we start talking about the landscape in the U.S. they’re surprised by it. They are surprised that we have 16 teams and are growing in MLS. They are surprised that Americans were the No. 1 ticket buyers for the World Cup. They are surprised that you couldn’t get into bars in a lot of major cities at 10 a.m. to watch World Cup games. They’re surprised that the TV rights for the World Cup were the single largest in the world. When you look at all those things happening in a relatively short time since the 1994 World Cup, you can see the extraordinary success story. It’s important that we continue to get that message across, and the story we tell is that if you look at this as a 50-year time span from 1984, which I use as a benchmark because of the Olympic Games which gave FIFA the faith in American spectators for the sport in 1994, we’re at halftime. Look what we’ve done in the first half. Imagine what we can do in the second half if American television and commercial partnerships treat the World Cup the same way they might treat the Olympics, for example. And more Americans treat viewing it the way they might the NFL, for example. We saw some of that. We finally got what we’ve been going for for 25 years, which is water cooler talk. People who didn’t normally tune in were talking about the World Cup, Donovan’s goal, the save, whatever. So, convincing the world that we’re halfway there is a big challenge, and that’s what we’re working hard on.”

On whether FIFA put any restrictions or guidelines on what could be offered as a gift to the delegation conduction 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup site inspections:

“Food, but not gifts, not by the organizing committee. Some of the cities may have given them small gifts. FIFA’s language on it doesn’t have a monetary value but it says ‘normal and customary.’ So if there’s a pennant or a local bottle of wine, I’m sure that would be fine. If someone were handing keys to a local car dealership with a Hundai, my guess is, that wouldn’t be fine. We’re staying very, very far away from any such lines.”

On whom the FIFA delegation will submit its inspection report to, what will happen with the report and how important the report is to the bid:

“They write a technical report and I suppose it goes to the FIFA general secretary, the CEO, who then does all the things they do, translations and so on. That will eventually go to the FIFA Executive Committee members, 24 of them. How much importance they attach to the report is really up to individual members. I think some will be very much guided by it, others will be guided by their own views of countries or their own view of infrastructure. In the case of the United States, my guess is that of the 24 Executive Committee members, 22 or 23 have been to the U.S. and probably 20-plus have seen a game in the United States, so it won’t be quite as novel to them as some of the other competitive bidders. Although, obviously, in the case of some, they’ve hosted a World Cup recently. How that’s used by the FIFA Executive Committee is really up to them, as is any technical report. But it will focus on those issues that we’ve been talking about, on infrastructure, on stadiums, on viability, on hotels, on telecommunications, many issues which are relatively straightforward in a country like the United States, we will have to give them assurance on how we would deal with certain issues and that’s what’s happening over the next few days.”

On whether the recent rumors that China will bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup helps the U.S. bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup:

“What [Ron Blum] is referring to is that under FIFA’s rotation, a continent is not allowed to host consecutive World Cups. Recently, China has indicated an interest in bidding for 2026. If FIFA had the thought of going to China in 2026, then an Asian competitor of ours for 2022, for example, would be precluded. I don’t think I want to comment on the politics of all of that. I think, speaking as an economist, China has an extraordinary growth rate and would be an inviting host. They put on a spectacular Olympic Games. There are a lot of people in the world who think that China is an important player, certainly in the world economy, in the world of sports and would be a great host some time in the future. Whether that’s 2026 or beyond is up to FIFA, but I think China is an important player in the world’s game and the world’s economy.”

On what might be the inspectors’ top priority:

“I think it’s everything and all of the bids are unique in that way. We have an architectural team with us, but they’re not going to be showing them any design plans on building stadiums. We’re not planning to build any stadiums specifically for the World Cup. But, they will be there to show how, in a couple of the stadiums that they’ll see over the next few days, how you’d get to 75 yards, or 68 meters, how you’d have sight-lines that work, how you’d build in the facilities for press seating that are far in excess of what you’d have at a normal NFL game. How you’d have access, how you have security zones. I think you’d look at all of that. In other cases they’ll be looking at architectural plans on how you’d modify a stadium or build a stadium, in other countries. All of those things will happen. There will be some discussions about security around stadiums and what our plan is. Obviously, we’re not really talking about airports and trains and public transport, which the U.S. has a great system of and when we talk about the number of visitors for a World Cup, which is fantastic in terms of supporting a city and the excitement around it. The mayor of New York last night mentioned that he hopes that they will get to their target audience of 50 million tourists in 2012 instead of 2015. If we can handle 50 million tourists, then I think we can safely handle the traffic with the World Cup at JFK [airport] and Penn Station and on our highways and so on. And I think that’s true, frankly, in a number of our cities, not in the same ways as it is in New York, which is unique.”

On whether the U.S. will maintain the intention to bid for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup or whether the U.S. will bid exclusively for the 2022 FIFA World Cup:

“I was hoping the question was going to be, ‘Did a member of FIFA say that we weren’t going to compete?’ but you made it a little harder by asking me if we’re going to actually compete. There is a general feeling that the 2018 World Cup is favored for Europe by a number of Executive Committee members. We’ve been quite consistent that, at this point, we’re bidding for both but our bid team are all young people and so are the rest of the people in the room, so we’re happy to wait for 2022 if that’s FIFA’s wish. I get asked the question a lot. None of the European bidders has dropped out of 2022, last I checked, as of seven minutes ago. Now, if one of the European countries wins the 2018, then they are automatically excluded from the 2022 competition. There’s no reason for me to predict what we might or might not do by Dec. 2. This is a competition. There’s a little bit of a game-theoretic modeling going on I guess. Is it possible that we would consider bidding on only one or the other? Sure. It’s also possible that the Europeans would drop out of the 2022 bidding before Dec. 2. The Asian countries have already focused only on 2022 so, if the president of UEFA or the president of FIFA or someone in that role said, ‘We’d really like you to focus on one and we think it would be greatly beneficial to FIFA and to the U.S. bid, I’m sure we’d sit down and talk about that.”

On whether the celebrities on the USA Bid Committee’s Board of Directors have an active role in the bid process:
“I’m actually very thankful and very pleased that most of our board members, including our very well-known, public figure board members, have active roles. They’re different. Dr. Kissinger was at the World Cup, came to three games, met with FIFA Executive Committee members, has made phone calls for us, has met with an ExCo member on one of his trips for his personal business. Morgan Freeman is the voice on our World Cup video, was in South Africa. President Clinton was in South Africa, met with 13 Executive Committee members, two press conferences, came to two games, has written to all the ExCo members. He’s absolutely very much engaged. Dr. Kissinger was also at the game here. Spike Lee has been very much engaged, was at the game, didn’t make it to the World Cup. Landon Donovan was very much engaged against Algeria late in the game to help our bidding efforts. He’s on our board. Governor Schwarzenegger is going to the Far East and will hopefully meet with some Executive Committee members. I could go on. We have another board member, CEO of a top corporation that we’ll announce in the next few days who was at the game against Brazil. Mayor Bloomberg was here last night to welcome the group. We were with Pele two weeks ago at the Mayor’s Cup, so they’re not all fans at the same level. Dr. Kissinger has been a fan forever and loves the game, Spike Lee loves the game and his kids play, and others are less involved. Joe Uva has been at multiple games, was at the World Cup, CEO of Univision, John Skipper from ESPN is very much involved. It is certainly not only celebrity or honorary names on that list. People are engaged, which is terrific for us.”
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