Following the success of Euro 2000 Belgium and the Netherlands have decided to join forces again and bid for the right to host the 2018 World Cup. They face tough competition in the face of European rivals England, Russia and fellow joint bidders Spain and Portugal. The proposal is led by Oranje legend Ruud Gullit who believes that the time has come for FIFA to award the World Cup to so called ‘smaller nations’. According to many many experts however Gullit’s bid is the rank outsider as decision time approaches rapidly.
The proposal has outlined Eindhoven as the World Cup’s ‘capital city’ with Amsterdam and Rotterdam both providing two stadiums each. Enschede and Heerenveen complete the line-up of Dutch host cities. In Belgium there will be seven locations including Brussels, Antwerp and Genk. The bid is primarily focused on the upgrading of exiting stadiums, such as Eindhoven’s Philips Stadion and Amsterdam’s Olympisch Stadion, originally built for the 1928 Olympic Games. There are also new venues proposed in Rotterdam, Antwerp and Bruges.
The bidding team are hoping they can differentiate their proposal from their rivals by pushing the environmental credentials of the bid. Dutch Football Association President Michael van Praag has stated that two million bikes will be made available for free to enable fans to travel easily during the tournament. Another plus point for the joint venture is the excellent transport infrastructure already in place. The bid is receiving support from various members of the sporting community. Abedi Ayew Pele, one of Africa’s greatest ever footballers and a key figure behind the South Africa 2010 bid, is backing the Dutch-Belgium proposal and Belgium tennis superstar Justine Henin has also been actively involved in supporting her nation’s bid.
Unfortunately FIFA have expressed concern at the lack of political support coming from The Hague and Brussels, but recently elected Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been in contact with FIFA president Sepp Blatter in an effort to convince him that the Netherlands-Belgium bid is viable and has the necessary political support.
Unlike their bidding rivals, the Dutch-Belgium proposal has at the least avoided controversy. Delegations from the Netherlands and Belgium have spent significant time in recent weeks travelling the globe, courting FIFA executive committee members, and it can be certain that the controversy surrounding their rivals has been on the agenda. A recent bike ride in Paris, led by Ruud Gullit, has started a increased level of public relations in the weeks leading up to the vote as they aim to obtain the required number of votes.
It would be a surprise if Ruud Gullit and his team could pull off an unlikely victory. There is very little wrong with the proposal submitted by the Dutch and Belgium Football Associations, but the temptation of handing the World Cup back to England or to the growing economic power of Russia is likely to be too much for members of FIFA’s Executive Committee. The fact that both nations recently hosted Euro 2000 will also go against them.