LONDON — Before the host for the 2006 World Cup were decided the general feeling was that South Africa, FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s preference, was nailed on. A one-horse race.

But the four Asian members on the executive committee were unhappy with their confederation’s quota of representatives at the World Cup finals. They wanted more and blamed Blatter. Their revenge was to switch their vote from South Africa to Germany, which against the odds beat its rivals by one vote. Mission accomplished.

That is how the right to stage the World Cup can be decided. Not who has the best bid, but other reasons. England’s defeat for the right to stage the 2018 World Cup was not because its bid or presentation was poor. It was because FIFA does not like a free, investigative media unveiling corruption within its organization.

This could — no, make that will — work against them, big time.

In the days before Thursday’s vote, Blatter addressed his executive committee and warned about the media in certain countries. No names, but message received and understood.

Blatter did not want a country whose media exposes corruption in his executive committee, even though Amos Adamu (Nigeria) and Reynald Temarii (Tahiti) were subsequently suspended by world football’s governing body.

It was a total humiliation for England. Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham were as powerful a lobbying team as the country could have. They were wasting their time.

England managed two votes, one by Geoff Thompson of the Football Association, so only one other executive committee member voted for England’s excellent bid. It stinks.

In FIFA’s eyes England is the enemy of football because its media digs too deep.

The criteria for hosting a World Cup should be the quality of stadiums, infrastructure, tradition, fan passion, financial guarantees . . . not whether the country has a media that is not censored.

The executive committee said that England’s bid was not just the worst, but the worst by a long way. That is impossible to justify, but FIFA being an organization where a secret vote decides the World Cup does not have to justify anything.

Blatter announces the winners and that’s that.

The FIFA technical report rated England’s bid the best, a fact disregarded in the final reckoning.

Why bother with a technical report when the men with the votes take no notice of it?

FIFA’s inspectors rated Qatar “a high operational risk” and warned that “the summer heat poses a potential health risk to players, officials, fans and the FIFA family.”

So what did the executive committee do?

Ignored the warnings of its inspectors and awarded the 2022 finals to a country where June temperatures average 41 C.

Why did the executive committee decide Qatar was the best bid?

The laws of libel prevent me from voicing my opinion, but I am sure you can read my mind.

The BBC’s “Panorama” program on Monday alleged four executive committee members received backhanders, but Swiss law seems designed to protect FIFA representatives from official investigations.

The way Russia was chosen is indefensible. The way Qatar won the vote beggars belief.

And will the 22 executive committee members give a hoot that their decisions have been made for non-football reasons?

As they dined in their five-star hotel before flying home first class, having collected their $500 a day expense allowance — not bad when just about everything is paid for and no receipts are needed — it is unlikely.

* * * * *

BARCELONA’S 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid was the best display I have ever seen from a club in 40 years covering what was, on Monday, the beautiful game.

Real is probably the second best team in Europe, yet was made to look like also-rans by a side that touched perfection. It was foot-ballet.

Pep Guardiola, the coach who has put the latest Barca Dream Team together, was linked with Chelsea in the wake of stories claiming Carlo Ancelotti was unsettled.

While Roman Abramovich is Chelsea’s owner no manager can ever feel settled.

Being coach of Barcelona, whose motto is “More Than A Club” and who is the figurehead of Catalonia, presents unique pressures which is probably why with one or two exceptions the men in charge tend not to stay more than three years.

But why on earth would Guardiola want to work for a man who runs his club with an iron fist, sacks a popular and respected coach like Ray Wilkins against his manager’s wishes because he said something out of turn to him?

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.

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