The reality is that this time next week the BBC Panorama programme into FIFA will have been aired and the England 2018 Bid team will be trying desperately to deal with the repercussions. Panorama have been here before with this subject matter with Jack Warner coming under the spotlight previously.
Jack Warner is currently the Trinidad and Tobago football executive, FIFA Vice-President and CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) President. His first brush with Panorama came when Warner was accused of corruption for repeatedly taking advantage of his position for financial gain. FIFA’s auditors, Ernst & Young, estimated that his family made a profit of at least $1 million from reselling 2006 World Cup tickets that Warner had ordered. Minutes of FIFA’s Executive Committee show that a fine of almost $1 million, equal to the expected profiteering, was imposed on the family.
Of the impending Panorama programme due to be screened on 29 November, the CONCACAF President has said it was “…deliberately designed to negatively impact…” on England’s bid and claims the programme is nothing more than “…a personal vendetta…”.
The England Bid team are aware that Warner holds the key to three votes which could be crucial to their chances of winning the 2018 decision. Previously, Warner was critical of the England Bid and caused controversy when he said that “…England invented the sport but has never made any impact on world football…” he added that, “…for Europe, England is an irritant…”, and that “…nobody in Europe likes England…”. However, he has since been seen as an advocate of the English Bid. Indeed England have courted Warner over the last few years. In June 2008 England played Trinidad & Tobago in Port of Spain and as recently as this September this year, David Beckham was in Macoya (Trinidad) coaching youngsters and pressing the claims of the England 2018 Bid with Warner. This month too has seen more attempts to secure Warner’s support as Prime Minister David Cameron invited the CONCACAF President to lunch.
However, the Bid team know that they have to do more than focus on Jack Warner to ensure they get the 12 votes necessary and as the clock ticks down to decision day England 2018 representatives are out around the world. This week the Bid team is in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion staging a safety and security seminar at the home of CONMEBOL (South American Football Confederation) as part of its campaign to gain support from their FIFA Executive Committee members. Elsewhere, David Dein, the former Arsenal and FA vice-chairman, travels to Rio de Janeiro for informal meetings with FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Brazil’s FIFA member Ricardo Terra Teixeira. Finally, England 2018 chairman Geoff Thompson, Chief Executive Andy Anson and Ambassador Paul Elliott will travel to Kuala Lumpur with Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to see the four Asian members of the FIFA Executive Committee.
Gentleman good luck, the hopes of the nations bid rest with you.