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Sunil Gulati

Quote Sheet: Sunil Gulati and David Downs at Press Conference in New York


U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati and Executive Director of the USA Bid Committee David Downs discuss the 18 cities that will be part of the USA’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

U.S. Soccer President SUNIL GULATI
On the absence of Chicago and a northern California venue:
“We had a lot of cities that were capable and qualified. Specifically in the case of Chicago, I think there is a little Olympic fatigue. The Park District had a tough time wrestling with the FIFA requirements. In short order after the IOC decision, when we approached them they were in the middle of the Olympic bid – the city as well as the Park District – and they had a tough time moving to get in full compliance with FIFA’s standards. Having said that, Chicago is a wonderful city and Soldier Field is a wonderful stadium. But, if it had been in the mix, it would have been, by about 10 percent, the smallest stadium in our group. We obviously looked at venues in northern California, but in the short-term, the 18 venues that we announced and the stadiums that we announced, we think are the best ones for us.”

On narrowing down any potential sites for the Opening Match or Final:
“There are specific requirements from FIFA on size and it’s a bigger for first round games. So, the number of cities that could host the Final or Opening Match is a subset of this. In our own minds, we’ve narrowed the number down to an even smaller group than that subset, but we’re not prepared to comment on that yet. The specifications for the Final are over 80,000 [spectators], so obviously there aren’t 18 of those that could host the Final.”

On the importance of New York to the World Cup bid:
“It’s extraordinarily important. When we originally submitted the World Cup bid for ’94, it didn’t look like New York was going to be a part of that process. When Allen Rothenberg was elected and took over the bid effort, he made it an absolute corner stone of what we were doing. I think to have a bid without New York would put us at a disadvantage. We’ve got a number of terrific cities, but when people around the world think about the United States, they think about New York and it’s the first point of entry for many. And now with a great city, we’ve got a phenomenal new stadium. Frankly, the old stadium was terrific and we all have memories from there. The new one is just that much better. But New York is central to our bid for sure.”

On the issue of some of the stadiums currently having turf pitches:
“We haven’t approached FIFA about that and they haven’t approached us about that. It would be our thinking at this point, unless they ask us to do something different, that we would be playing on natural grass in all stadiums. We’ve shown that we can pretty easily put grass on turf. We can grow grass in indoor stadiums. We did it in Detroit for the first time that anyone had done it. I don’t think any of those issues are a concern to us. But it is our thought and the current requirements from FIFA that all fields be natural grass.”

On the decision to select Boston and Foxborough as one of the host cities and venues:
“The average size for the 18 [venues] is 78,000. Foxboro can get to 73,000 for World Cup capacity. It’s hosted some terrific events. It’s been a great part of our success story for American soccer. For the Men’s National Team, both the ‘tea party’ we held for the England team in 1993 and the other one that happened a couple hundred years earlier make it interesting for historical purposes. So, it’s a great venue and the only one that’s hosted three World Cups – two Women’s World Cups and the Men’s World Cup."

On factoring in the Mexican population and draw of the Mexican team in measuring soccer passion:
“The answer is no. For the World Cup, domestic ticket sales are far more important than international numbers. We think we’ve got multiple ‘home teams’ in the United States for the obvious reasons of an Italy or Ireland in New York or a Mexico in Los Angeles or San Diego. When we talk about passion, we’re talking about passion for the sport in general, whether it’s the Hispanic community for the Mexican national team or the Anglo-community and Hispanic community for the U.S. National Team and how important this is for the development of the game. We’ll have eight or 12 years to promote the sport so passion will be important in helping us get there, but we’ve also got other areas where we want to see what’s happening over the next few years in terms of increased registration, increased fields, season ticket sales for MLS teams and so on. These things are all important to us and we’ll factor them in to what we think will be a terrific event, but not specifically in venue selection.”

On whether there are plans to cluster host cities geographically to minimize cross-country travel for participating teams:
“Sure, it poses some challenges that a smaller country doesn’t have. Certainly, the issues that Germany faced in this area were much different. So we will look at that. What’s happened in the last couple World Cups with the format of 32 teams, is teams in fact are playing in three venues, as is happening to the U.S. in South Africa, without any flights. So we would look at that. But you’ve also got a situation where in a dozen years, we’re guessing that there will be a few more minutes of off travel, and it will be more comfortable, and so on. So the answer is we certainly want to prevent a team from playing in New York, to Los Angeles and then back in Boston in an 11 or 10 day period, so I think some clustering could be possible. That’s something we would discuss in six to eight years with FIFA."

On whether there are concerns about the weather in Miami in the summer:
“We played in Dallas and Orlando in ’94, and I think it was OK. Miami’s a great venue. Eight years, 12 years, maybe there’s a retractable roof stadium in Miami, but we think Landshark Stadium is a terrific stadium. Houston and Phoenix obviously have domed stadiums, but it’s pretty warm there too.”

On the time-zone challenge of meeting prime-time viewing around the world:
“It seemed to work out ok in ’94. We haven’t had that sort of discussion, but since we sold out 98 percent capacity, and put people in the seats, it didn’t seem to be a great deterrent to people coming. Those television time issues are a long way down the road.”

On the status of stadiums signing to be made available for the World Cup:
“We are absolutely at that stage. Every one of the 27 that was being considered and certainly the 18 that are part of the bid, have signed documents about availability, about facilities, about field dimensions, about advertising, about city advertising and just about everything else. So the answer is we are 100 percent compliant with FIFA’s regulations which are extraordinarily strict.”

On what President Obama might feel about Chicago being left off the bid:
“I think the President is a huge sports fan, he wrote an extraordinary letter that was clearly personally written to the FIFA President that we hand delivered, and he’s hosted the FIFA President, the CONCACAF President and the General Secretary of FIFA along with me for a meeting at the Oval Office. So he’s a big supporter. In that meeting it was clear that he knew something about the sport, we got into a big discussion about the seasonal year, so he’s a big supporter. But I think the President is very focused on a few other things right now.”

On whether the remaining 18 cities are competing with each other and meet additional requirements to be selected to host matches:
“In terms of our application to FIFA in May, they are in the book. They will be part of our bid. That list is going to be narrowed, if we’re lucky enough to be successful in December, it will get narrowed between now and 2015 or 2016, if we’re hosting the first one, or two years later if we’re hosting the second. So there are going to be additional things that happen along the way, but those are going to be primarily in terms of building the sport. There may be some other requirements, but to date, the cities have met all of our requirements in terms of the stadium, advertising, the training facilities, hotel contracts and so on. A few of those things will continue to happen over the next 90 days but to date the stadiums and venues and cities have met everything we asked.”

On how interested the USA Bid Committee would be in Industry City and Santa Clara, Calif., and what year those stadiums would have to be definitive to be included in the FIFA World Cup:
“I think today we are going to focus on those that are already built and have submitted applications. I don’t want to speculate on something that might happen. It’s a long lead time. Even for the 2018 World Cup, it’s two years longer than FIFA has ever given anyone. Most of the stadiums that are built in other countries for the World Cup are done for the World Cup and then used for other events. We’re not talking about that here. No one is being asked to build a stadium or any other facility for the World Cup itself, but I don’t want to speculate on what might happen in the next 12 years or eight years.”

On how other parts of the USA’s bid are coming along, such as governmental guarantees:
“We are moving forward in all areas. There are any number of chapters in this book about legacy issues, environmental issues, social impact, government guarantees, and we’ve been working very closely with the administration and with members of various agencies in Washington and I think we’ll get all of the assurances we need. FIFA fully understands that each country has a different setup, in terms of a federal and state structure so there may be some modifications that are necessary to their guarantees. We may not be able to enact laws by May that are needed, and that is called for in some cases. There may be jurisdiction issues between a locale, a state and a federal authority. I have no doubt that we will be fully compliant with FIFA’s requests in a manner that’s acceptable to them and in a manner that’s acceptable to the U.S. government.”

On whether there is an estimate of how many cities would be chosen for the World Cup:
“We’ve always thought of 12. FIFA has said nine to 12. We want a national event and we think that’s enhanced by having more venues. It increases the cost dramatically because your ticket revenues don’t go up if you’re planning on a sellout regardless of where you’re playing but we think in order to truly build the game the way we want to see it built, the more venues we’re in, the better. At some point you have to worry about travel issues and economies of scale. We think 12 is what we would look for in the eventual bid. That would be a decision made in conjunction with FIFA, along with the specific venues.”

On whether the USA Bid learned from the failed Olympic Bids from New York 2012 and Chicago 2016:
“We said very early on that our bid was completely independent of Chicago’s and not the day after they didn’t get selected. It is completely a different process. The Olympics are one city, with the exception of soccer, which is played in a few different venues, it’s 100-plus IOC members that vote, we’ve got a group of 24, we have CONCACAF’S full support going in and we’ve had unanimous support of the CONCACAF executive committee, so it’s a completely different dynamic. All 24 members of the FIFA executive committee are known to us, personally, we have relationships with most of them. So it’s a different process and I think some of the natural alliances we saw happen, especially in the last IOC decision, in this case, favor us. There are some lessons we have learned. We’ve talked to the folks from New York and have some of them working with us in different capacities, as well as the folks in Chicago. So, to the extent that there are lessons to be learned, I think we understand some of them but I don’t think there are many lessons that are directly applicable given the different process and the different nature of the event.”

On how security issues would be addressed financially for the World Cup:
“It is an area of government involvement and there are pretty clearly defined rules about who pays for what in terms of events like this. So, the private sector couldn’t possible be expected to step into the role of federal authorities when it comes to things like immigration, security, counterintelligence, all of those sorts of things. As was the case in ’94, or during a Super Bowl or any major event, we’d be working hand-in-hand but very much federal government, state government, state and local authorities would be heavily involved in all levels of security, whether it’s importation of goods, the movement of people in and around stadiums, infrastructure, all those things. That is a big part of the government guarantees.”

Executive Director of the USA Bid for the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup DAVID DOWNS
On the decision to select Boston and Foxborough as one of the host cities and venues:
“It’s not necessarily a requirement to average 78,000 or that every stadium be that or above. Obviously we can offset matches in some of the smaller stadiums with matches in some of the larger stadiums. And don’t forget to other important factors: that not every one of these stadiums will ultimately host World Cup matches even if we are privileged enough to win and not every stadium would hold the exact same number of matches, which would weight the average differently.”

On measuring soccer passion:
“There’s a number of ways: obviously, the number of matches in the past that have been hosted by that community and the attendance at those matches; the attendance that has been exhibited for a home team – such as in Seattle; or its the strength in the youth movement or the collegiate program or the number of national team players produced in that area. I don’t want to make it sound like a precise science, but it was definitely an angle of consideration for us.”

On whether there are concerns about the weather in Miami in the summer:
“Again, the purpose of offering FIFA the maximum allowable 18 cities, 18 stadiums is to give them maximum flexibility in designing a World Cup that would be best suited for their needs.”

On the time-zone challenge of meeting prime-time viewing around the world:
“In 1994 it was a 52-game schedule, and so there was not quite the same amount of pressure on every given day. As you may be aware in the first round, there are eleven days in which three matches have to be played, and you inevitably have to play one in mid-afternoon, one in late afternoon and one in prime time, regardless of in what time zone the World Cup’s being held.”

On how much FIFA controls the choice of 12 cities from 18:
“The actual selection process has yet to be 100 percent determined. It would be some form of consultation between FIFA and ourselves if we’re privileged enough to be part of that process. It certainly wouldn’t be unilateral on our part, and it probably wouldn’t be without input on our part either.”

On when the final venue decision would be made:
“Approximately five years before whichever World Cup we would host.”



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