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Immigration Law and the World Cup Bid

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 12:47 pm

May 3, 2010, 11:40 pm
Immigration Law and the World Cup Bid
By ANDREW DAS

Complaints about Arizona’s controversial new immigration law and its effect on professional sports have until now focused mostly on Major League Baseball, since Phoenix is scheduled to host the 2011 All-Star Game. But the legislation, and a brewing fight in Congress over immigration policy, could also have implications for the United States’ bid to host the World Cup in 2018 or 2022.

Glendale, Ariz., is one of the 18 cites included in the United States bid, which faces competition from eight other suitors for the 2018 and 2022 events: Australia, England, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Qatar and two joint bids: from Belgium and the Netherlands, and Spain and Portugal. (FIFA will for the first time announce two hosts on the same day, on Dec. 2.)

The United States, based on its existing inventory of massive, modern stadiums and its successful turn as the host in 1994, is considered a leading candidate in the new round of bidding, especially since its top rival in the region, Mexico, withdrew last year.

But the controversy and protests sparked by Arizona’s new law are worrying some sports officials. Given how reluctant many of them seem to be to comment on the controversy, maybe fans hoping to see another World Cup here should be worrying, too.

The Times’s Jack Bell, writing in his weekly notebook, tried to get reaction from some of the key players involved in the World Cup bidding. He was generally greeted with the same refrain: no comment.

The spokesman for the committee running the United States bid, Jurgen Mainka, said the group would not comment on the new law.

The United States Soccer Federation, through a spokesman, Neil Buethe, also declined to comment when asked about the potential ramifications of the new law.

The union that represents M.L.S. players has not taken a position, either.

“I certainly have a strong personal opinion on the law, but as an organization we have not taken a position or made any statement,” the union’s executive director, Bob Foose, said in an e-mail message.

Officials could try to nip the crisis in the bud by dropping University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale from the bid committee’s list of possible venues; as Jack notes, the tournament will use only 12 of the 18 proposed cities anyway. But the issue of illegal immigration remains incredibly divisive, and the fight over it shows no signs of abating.

A New York Times poll released Monday showed that a majority of Americans support the Arizona law, even though they think it could lead to racial profiling. And at least 10 states are considering similar laws. Five of those states — Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri and Texas — are home to cities that are among the 18 included in the World Cup bid.

FIFA will make it final visits to assess the merits of the United States bid later this year. A venomous fight about suspicious-looking foreigners, identity cards and police powers is certainly not the welcome U.S. Soccer officials had in mind.

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