Now time for the real witch hunt
Yesterday’s announcement of the bids for the World Cups in 2018 and 2022 was gutting for everyone involved with football in Britain. Though England were bidding for the World Cup I can’t imagine there were many people in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland who didn’t want them to win so they could see the World Cup being played on their doorstep. The reasons why the World Cup should have come to the UK are myriad and have been talked about endlessly. Let’s be honest, as football fans you know we’d put on a great show and pack out the stadiums without having to resort to bussing people in.
Despite presenting what FIFA called an ‘excellent’ technical bid, England only managed to get 2 votes (one of them England’s). FIFA have since come out and stated that media intrusion and allegations against high ranking FIFA officials put them off. The Panorama programme broadcast on BBC One on Monday highlighted what many who follow football already knew, that FIFA is a corrupt organisation. The repeated appearance of Concacaf president Jack Warner was no surprise to those who have paid any attention to the World Cup bidding process.
By hiding behind the fear of media scrutiny FIFA have occupied a cowardly position which shows that something is rotten in the state of football. How fitting that an organisation as crooked as FIFA have given the 2018 World Cup to what is basically a gangster state. The recent wikileaks cables from the US Embassy have estimated that over $300bn is siphoned out of the Russian economy every year in bribes. Corruption isn’t quite on the level of a failed African state, but it’s not far off. Add in the racism that greets most black footballers whether playing for home or visiting teams and you’ve got a recipe for a World Cup that could be fraught with problems.
If FIFA think they’ve been put under the spotlight already then I think it’s time to show them what a real UK media witch-hunt is like.
First things first, the bid team should release every detail of the bid process. Who spoke to who about what, who paid for what, publish all accounts and transactions, all correspondence whether public or private. The demands that FIFA were asking of the government, the new laws and tax exemptions that parliament would have been forced to pass. Throw it all out into the open. Make it public domain. If FIFA is clean they should have nothing to fear. But as I just pointed out, it is obvious that their conscience is not clear.
Then let the papers do what they do best. Forensic scrutiny of the minutiae the material looking to expose any semblance of wrongdoing or hypocrisy. Which sets off a seemingly endless cycle of 24 hour comment and analysis on TV, radio and websites. Stories about a story about a story about FIFA corruption. Hyperbole, allegation, speculation, rumour. Questions in parliament, pressure on the FA. Demands that ‘something is done’.
We’ve all seen the ridiculousness of what can happen when some MPs claim a few quid too much on their expenses, imagine what they could do with details of unelected officials taking hundreds of millions of dollars of bribes. The UK media still has a high reputation across the world, outlets such as The Times, The Guardian, The BBC can spread the campaign throughout football in Europe and then globally. If the Premier League decide to put their oar in then you can guarantee the world of football will sit up and listen given it’s money, power and reach. Create so much pressure that FIFA simply have to cave, or that some sort of body decides to formally investigate them.
Seriously, what do we have to lose? Most of the members of the FIFA executive committee will be dead or retired by the time we get a chance to bid again. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and by turning over the rotten log we may be able see the woodlice scurrying away and stop them. This isn’t sour grapes from the losers. Much as the World Cup would have been amazing if held in England, for many it would have been done with a peg on the nose to hide the stench of corruption. This is an opportunity to reform and improve the way that football is run globally.
As a postscript, I really do hope Israel qualify for the Qatar World Cup. Or that there are some openly gay footballers playing for national sides by 2022 (homosexuality is illegal in Qatar). Just to see how open and welcoming the Qataris really are
- World Cup decision influenced by Fifa president’s ‘dislike’ of England, David Mellor claims (telegraph.co.uk)
- England miss out on 2018 World Cup (mirror.co.uk)