Duncan Mackay ©ITG

Reaction to the decision here today that Birmingham's bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games needed a bit more work was, dare I say it, a little bit hysterical.

The Birmingham Mail called it a "bombshell".

Dan Roan, the BBC's normally measured sports editor, labelled it a "fiasco". 

The Liverpool Echo, whose city was overlooked in favour of Birmingham remember, led the front of its website with the headline: "Birmingham Commonwealth Games bid rocked by SENSATIONAL blow".

Fact of the matter is that very little has changed since Birmingham was the only city to submit its bid to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) by the deadline of last Saturday (September 30). 

The deadline has now been extended until November 30 as Victoria in Canada and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia have continued to express interest in replacing Durban, stripped of the Games in March after failing to meet a series of financial deadlines. 

Those discussions will carry on over the next seven weeks while serious negotiations will be going on with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Birmingham City Council. Providing Birmingham is able to guarantee it can deliver what it is promising, it will get the Games. It's the solution both the CGF and Birmingham are seeking. 

Birmingham remain in pole position to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games ©Birmingham 2022
Birmingham remain in pole position to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games ©Birmingham 2022

Much of the uncertainty created by today's announcement was caused by the CGF's own official press release and particularly where it said they had received "no fully compliant bid", with all the negative connotations that phase carries. 

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson wasn't slow in taking to the pages of his local newspaper, claiming "there are definitely questions to be asked of DCMS about how a non-compliant bid was allowed to be submitted". The only surprise was that The Liverpool Echo didn't splash with the headline "We were robbed". 

Anderson's criticism was unjustified because one of the CGF's main concerns is the conditions attached to the guarantees promised by the Government, who had pledged last week they would provide most of the funding, expected to be up to £750 million ($1 billion/€850 million). Those questions would have existed whether the Government had put forward Birmingham, Liverpool or Milton Keynes.

Another concern the CGF have is whether Birmingham City Council have officially acquired the rights to the land in Perry Barr, an area in the north of the city close to Alexander Stadium, which will be the main focus during the Games, to build the Athletes' Village. A source at the Council told me today they were surprised this had been raised as an issue and they could easily reassure the CGF.

Such issues, though, are not unusual when a city is campaigning for a major event. 

The Host City Contract, which all successful bidders for major Games have to sign, is a legal document which details the commitments each party promises to make, often running into hundreds of millions of pounds. It is not something to be signed lightly on either side as if you get it wrong the financial implications can be catastrophic. 

The bid that Birmingham submitted last week was never to be the definitive agreement. It marked the start of negotiations between them and the CGF. There is sure to be plenty more to-ing and fro-ing between the two parties over the next few weeks as they seek to reach an agreement that suits both of them.

If such due diligence and proper negotiations had been done two years ago, when Durban were originally awarded the Games by the CGF at its General Assembly in Auckland because they were the only bidder, then we probably wouldn't even be in this situation now.

"We have been caught out once before so if Birmingham thought we were just going to award them the gold medal for being the only bidder they were sadly mistaken," one member of the CGF Executive Board here told me. "We can't give them the Games just because they are the only city. We got caught like that before. We want to make sure it won't happen again."

Kuala Lumpur staged a very successful Commonwealth Games in 1998 and could be persuaded to bid again ©Getty Images
Kuala Lumpur staged a very successful Commonwealth Games in 1998 and could be persuaded to bid again ©Getty Images

Kuala Lumpur appear to be more interested in hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games and the optimism of Victoria in Canada is engaging. They still believe they can bring the British Columbia Government to the table, even though the Finance Minister Carole James has made it clear they have no interest in backing it. 

It does not, though, do the CGF any harm to keep the prospect alive that someone might emerge as a challenger to Birmingham. 

The United Kingdom Government want these Commonwealth Games badly, don't underestimate that. It is an important part of their post-Brexit strategy and of engaging with emerging markets across the world. Only yesterday Government agency UK Sport launched a £30 million ($39 million/€34 million) campaign to help bring some of the world's biggest events to Britain. If the CGF can exploit that ambition to cash in and get a few extra million pounds out of the agreement, they would be foolish to ignore the opportunity.

I still expect Birmingham to be awarded the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Members of the CGF Review Team who are leading this process told me as long ago as May they thought it was the best bid. There is nothing that has changed. Birmingham looks like it will just have to wait a little bit longer before it can start celebrating.