World Cup 2018 – Fallout

Two days on the FIFA decision on Thursday still hurts and continues to make headlines. The debate about the rights and wrongs will rumble on. In looking to close out what has occurred this week, the words of acting FA Chairman Roger Burden possibly best sum up the frustrations of the England Bid Team.

“…We (England) were equal top of FIFA’s own technical assessment of the four bids…We were top of an independent assessment of the best commercial bids and our presentation on Thursday was widely acclaimed as the best of the 2018 and 2022 bids…Against this background, I am struggling to understand how we only achieved two votes. It is difficult to believe that the voting was an objective process…On top of that, Prince William, the Prime Minister and other members of our delegation were promised votes that did not materialise…”

Burden points to the obvious question, in that if the Bid is based on the FIFA assessments and the England Bid came out on top in these, then what where the factors that the Executive Committee used to make its decision to award the 2018 event to Russia?

Unfortunately the Sunday Times and BBC Panorama programme provided the “excuse” for FIFA to reject the England Bid.

Roger Burden has subsequently withdrawn his application for the position of FA Chairman, saying that in the post he would have to work closely with FIFA, but feels he would be unable to, as he no longer trusts or has faith in the FIFA Executive Committee. A thought echoed by many, many people after Thursday.

World Cup 2018 – 2 days to decision

So that was it? 29 minutes which basically featured details of a case that has been through the Swiss Courts back in 2008. So where was the new evidence? What bit of it was in the public interest? Will the BBC be trotting off to the Police with their “allegations”? So the Panorama team has a list from a “trusted source”, but what direct links do the payments details have with those that they accuse? Where’s the proof?

The way the journalist Andrew Jennings went about the programme gave the impression that it was a personal vendetta against FIFA, rather than an impartial investigative story. A visit to his website shows an obsession with FIFA related stories, which frankly was reflected in last night’s television offering.

It’s an unfortunate fact of modern society, that where there is business and politics or any arena where there is much to gain, whether in financial terms or individual power, there will be corruption. It doesn’t mean it is right or should be ignored, but for the media to act like saints who know what is in our best interest is frankly patronising.

The timing of the programme just doesn’t make sense sentiments echoed by Andy Anson, the head of England’s 2018 Bid, who said he was “…disappointed with the timing of the programme…” and added “…it is certainly not going to win us any votes so we just have to see what happens tonight (Monday) and move on…”

It shows how “informed” the programme was in stating that England’s fate lay in the hands of Nicolas Leoz and Ricardo Teixeira. The reality is that the South American Federation has already pledged its support to the Spain/Portugal Bid. Where the damage will be done is with regard to Issa Hayatou and Jack Warner, as England would have been targeting the CAF (Central Africa) and CONCACAF (North & Central Africa and Caribbean) votes.

As a final thought – you know there is something not quite right in the world when David Mellor is dragged out by the BBC to give advice on integrity and morals.

World Cup 2018 – 3 days to decision

Tonight the BBC does its bit to support the England 2018 World Cup Bid with a Panorama programme titled, “FIFA’s Dirty Secrets”. This obviously in-depth 29 minute masterpiece of journalism, “…investigates corruption allegations against some of the FIFA officials who will vote on England’s World Cup bid. Reporter Andrew Jennings exposes new evidence of bribery, and accuses some executives of taking kickbacks. He also uncovers the secret agreements that could guarantee FIFA a financial bonanza if England hosts the World Cup…”

Now will the producers be gathering last minutes facts and interviews before a last ditch edit to ensure the programme goes out at 20:30? Of course not. This piece of work from the Panorama will have long been in the can and ready to show. Why if this programme is as the BBC say, so necessary for the public interest, was it not transmitted before now? The reason, pure and simple, is about the egos within the Panorama team and the BBC wanting the programme to have maximum exposure and controversy, so will put it out just 3 days before the FIFA decision.

If the BBC is so concerned about the publics moral welfare, why didn’t they submit their “evidence” along with the Sunday Times expose to FIFA at the recent Ethics Committee hearing in Zurich? Simple, they want their own slice of the action. It’s rather like a witness withholding evidence until a time that benefits them. The other alternative is that the programme doesn’t actually hold water so has nothing to say based on fact and instead the audience will be treated to less than half an hour of suggestion, speculation, hearsay, coincidence, rumours and assumptions.

Events such the FIFA World Cup are protected under the terms of Independent Television Committee Code on Sports and Other Listed Events. This seeks to ensure that listed events are available to watch on free-to-air channels. For the 2010 World Cup in South Africa ITV and BBC shared the UK coverage.

Whether or not England is successful on Thursday, how wonderful would it be if the Government decided that from 2014 sporting rights for the listed events had to be bid for by ITV, BBC, Channel 4 and Five. The Bid would be to gain a contract to share the listed events for the next 20 years. Let’s see how the BBC would enjoy having their Bid put under scrutiny and damaging articles about the BBC’s Senior Managers and Sports departments spread all over the media just days before the contract is awarded.

As France found out in South Africa, after their controversial World Cup Play-Off win over Ireland – what goes around comes around. Who knows what is ahead for the BBC?

World Cup 2018 – 9 days to decision

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.