With the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups well under way, the country of Australia considers itself to be a major candidate and worthy option for the world’s greatest soccer event. In 2018 the country has a very slim chance, as European powers such as England, Russia, Belgium & The Netherlands (combined bid) and Spain & Portugal (combined bid) are all eligible to receive that bid. But in 2022, the country has a fair shot. European teams would be ineligible (should one receive the 2018 bid) leaving Australia’s competition for that bid as the United States, Japan, South Korea, Qatar and Indonesia.
Australia may turn out to be a good choice for FIFA as the country is a major tourist destination and is located in an area that has never hosted World Cup Play before. Additionally, the country is notoriously fond of athletics, has a sound economy but has not, as of yet, seriously embraced soccer. A bid for the country should ignite and excite a “virgin” population of over 20 million people to buy into the sport and further its growth.
But despite all of this positive news, Australia has one teeny tiny complication. The World Cup falls smack dab in the middle of the Australian Rules Football (AFL) season. Aussie Rules Football, or “Footy” is an extremely popular sport down under and while the AFL has shown complete support for the country’s bid, FIFA is requiring that no other major sports leagues play at the same time as the World Cup Finals, which does not suit the AFL whatsoever. So Australia is trying to get an exemption from FIFA, believing that precedents exist that would allow other competitions to continue (i.e. Major League Baseball continuing play during the 1994 World Cup in the United States). Along with the proposed exemption would be a an entire relocation plan that would move AFL, Rugby and Cricket games to different locations during World Cup play so as not to compete.
Whether or not FIFA would allow such an exemption in a market as small and competitive as Australia we have yet to see, but one thing is for sure, this is one commited country. I can already see the laughter that would burst out if the United States Soccer Federation asked Jerry Jones to move the Cowboys out of Dallas for a month while soccer players take over Cowboys Stadium.