Thursday, May 12, 2011

ASEAN's World Cup Bid

Of the three pillars of ASEAN, the most obscure pillar would be the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.   Besides a shared diet of rice, there would not appear to be many common cultural bases for ASEAN members, given the diverse cultural and religious influences throughout the region.   The ASEAN Political-Security and Economic Communities have much more visible and tangible presences.

Although comparisons between the EU and ASEAN are always fraught with difficulties, even in socio-cultural community building it would appear that ASEAN is less developed than the EU.  “Ode to Joy” is well-known as the anthem of the EU, but very few even know of the existence of the ASEAN anthem “the ASEAN Way. “ There is no ASEAN equivalent of the Eurovision song contest, nor an ASEAN television channel (although MTV and Disney can make credible claims to this title).

The announcement of ASEAN’s joint bid for the 2030 World Cup of football (soccer) represents a major step in developing the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.  Nothing crosses cultural divides more than football (yes, as an American I do find this game of “anticipation” rather frustrating to watch, but I cannot discount its global importance).   A joint bid will excite football fans in the region and give substance to the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

Since the World Cup involves a lot of money, the bid will also necessarily involve the AEC.  The bidding process will require coordination and expenditure, and if the bid is successful, there will be issues related to licensing, construction, scheduling and endorsements.  The ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) can take care of most of these issues, but without an equivalent entity in the public sector to coordinate matters with FIFA and the AFF, an ASEAN World Cup could be an expensive mess. 

I therefore hope that the ASEAN member states can see fit to designate the ASEAN Secretary-General (or one of his deputies) to serve as the standing coordinator and represent the member states in coordinating with the AFF and negotiating with FIFA.   I know that this will require some relaxation of sovereignty concerns, but without a unified structure, the bid could fall victim to the same management-by-committee issues that have caused the EU-ASEAN free trade agreement talks to stall.

Besides, if this model works for the World Cup, it could work for other joint ASEAN projects on the world stage.  After all, if Brazil can host both the World Cup and the Olympics in a short period of time, why not ASEAN?