World Cup 2018 and 2022

Where England failed, why Qatar won

December 3, 2010
By Harry Harris, Football Correspondent

Mike Lee is the man who can unlock the door in the background. He is not a David Beckham, Prince William, or David Cameron, but he is the PR expert who helped London land the 2012 Olympics, and who was overlooked for the job with the FA's 2018 bid - so he took up the appointment with Qatar, and helped them land the World Cup in 2022.

Mike Lee was a leading player in London's winning campaign to secure hosting to 2012
GettyImagesMike Lee was a leading player in London's winning campaign to secure hosting to 2012

Lee also helped John W Henry navigate the media minefield at one of the world's most famous football clubs during the American's takeover in the most acrimonious circumstances from the hated Hicks and Gillett regime.

On his way back from Zurich as the one Englishman at FIFA's World Cup vote to emerge victorious, he is the man with the answers. Why did England fail? And why the country vilified in this country for winning 2022 deserved to have been voted in.

"I could say a lot but I am not going to, let's say that is for others to determine,'' he told ESPNsoccernet. But you don't win any bid campaign over the final two days, it is over the previous two years.

"When we went to Singapore to land the Olympics for London 2012 we did so with a very solid base before Tony Blair turned up, so these bids are really not won in the final presentations.

"I must say, though, that England's final presentation was very good, but let's be realistic they had rather bigger obstacles they needed to look to overcome."

So why does Qatar deserve the World Cup, when it's being ridiculed in this country?

"If your own bid is not successful people tend to lash out, but my focus has not been on 2018, and you won't find me commenting on the British press. Again, I will let others do that,'' he added.

"Let me put it this way in defining why Qatar deserves 2022, you don't go through two years campaigning unless you have the right answers. You provide those in the very substantial bid book we produced, in the full inspection team, and you don't come out on top without addressing all the questions. There is no hiding place from that. Whether you have convinced the Executive is another matter.

"Clearly, we did convince them. I know size is being made an issue. But I agree size does matter, and we have used that to our advantage, while others are suggesting it is a disadvantage.

"We have built part of our campaign on the fact that you will be able to see two or even three World Cup ties in one day if you wished in this single and small World Cup location.

"It will be vastly different from the amount of travelling at past World Cups in South Africa and the USA and in Brazil coming up, and it's been about taking advantage of the size issue not seeing it as a disadvantage.

"We have built part of our campaign on the fact that you will be able to see two or even three World Cup ties in one day if you wished in this single and small World Cup location".
Mike Lee

"The other issue being thrown around at the moment is the tiny population of Qatar, but the World Cup is global. It's about the people coming to the country, and by 2022 there will be a population of 700 million in the Middle East."

As for the fact that he was fatally overlooked by England and ended up with Qatar, Lee commented: "I am very flattered that you are making the point that there has been an English winner in Zurich, but that is just down to hard work, but not down to me, it's been a team effort, and a very big team who put together a fantastic campaign with very strong technical proposals."

But once again, the FA and England's bid has fallen victim to one PR disaster after another. Lee said: "I did have early discussions with Andy Anson, but I was also talking to Qatar. It was a mutual decision really. England didn't need my advice and Qatar's bid for 2022 didn't clash with England's bid for 2018, and I took on the Qatar challenge because it is a very interesting part of the world."

Would Lee have seen them coming? Did the FA appoint the right people in their team? There might need to be some deep and meaningful soul-searching internally rather than all the focus on the external reasons thus far given as to why England failed in Zurich for 2018.