Analysing the odds…. of a controversy-free World Cup
The FIFA World Cup is once again upon us, commencing this Friday morning in the early hours.
The tournament, held every four years, determines who among Argentina, Brazil and Western Europe will be crowned the world's best football team.
By virtue of qualifying, the remaining 26-odd nations (Australia included) have already achieved their major victory and therefore compete for the unofficial award of most gallant participants.
Brazil appears the favourites for this year's tournament, although this is difficult to validate given the scarcity of available betting related information that is typical of sport events.
While sport is slated as tool which can be used for development and peace, this year's World Cup, held in Russia, continues a trend of potentially controversial World Cups.
This trend commenced in South Africa (2010) and Brazil (2014), where in both instances there was local backlash against the event and its considerable financial burden and social displacement caused.
FIFA officials will likely be watching nervously as to the success of the tournament, given strong global sentiment that both the Russian (2018) and Qatari (2022) World Cup bids appear to have been won corruptly (recently confirmed by president of FIFA Sepp Blatter), since resulting in the implementation of a more transparent voting structure.
Furthermore, violent clashes by coordinated and trained groups of Russian football hooligans ("Ultras") during the 2016 European Championships, coupled with the presence of far-right fan groups within Russia's domestic football league, represent grave causes for concern for tourist safety.
FIFA will also be hopeful of respectful crowds within stadiums after audible monkey chats were heard during Russia's friendly against France in St Petersburg in March. It has since been announced that referees will have the authority to abandon matches on the basis of racist incidents.
These concerns sit within a bigger sport backdrop within which Russia was banned from the most recent Olympic Games due to state-sponsored doping which the International Olympic Committee called an "unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport".
Even more so than previous tournaments then, the Russian edition of FIFA's global football showcase could be known for the off-field talking points just as much as the on-field football mastery.