Questions are being asked and fingers are starting to be pointed after England’s 2018 Fifa World Cup bid failed yesterday, 2nd December 2010. The England bid went out in the first round, having earned just two votes, with Russia beating the Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium bids in round two.
Prime Minster David Cameron, who was part of England’s presentation team on the day, called the news “bitterly disappointing” and said it was hard to see what else could have been done.
“I think according to Fifa we had the best technical bid. No-one could identify any risks of bringing the tournament to England. I think we had the strongest commercial bid and the country is passionate about football. But it turns out that is not enough” he said
Why then did England’s bid fail? Andy Anson, the bid’s chief executive, has raised questions as to the negative British media surrounding corruption within Fifa, and the impact that this may have had on the voting process.
Anson has said that he had been told that Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, had spoken to executive committee members of the “evil of the media” just before the vote.
He added: “I think that was unhelpful and actually inaccurate. There was a final sum up before they voted and I think it was mentioned at the beginning of that. That’s not helpful to our cause.”
The Fifa executive committee has since confirmed that the lingering backlash against the British media following the explosive corruption allegations had counted against England and contributed to the bid team’s defeat.
The committee’s comments are apparently focussed towards the report on the BBC’s Panorama programme Broadcast in the UK on the 29th November 2010, 2 days before the vote, which accused 3 senior Fifa officials, all involved in the World Cup bid process of taking bribes to secure votes.
An inside reaction to the report and its effect comes from Angel Maria Villar Llona, the Spanish executive committee member, went further in saying, “I love Fifa dearly I also love my colleagues. Recently we have been criticised by many media outlets, but unfortunately for them Fifa is a clean institution.
Junji Ogura, Japan’s Fifa executive committee member has said that “I thought England was a very strong candidate. Their presentation was one of the strongest, but I think there was a big influence from the reports of the BBC. These reports possibly influenced people. It made damage for some people.”
In light of the alleged reaction from Fifa to the negative press received, there has been today much damming criticism of the English media from senior figures within English Football, as well as angry football bloggers describing the press as “unpatriotic” in light of the news.
Former Football Association(FA) executive chairman, David Davies said the role of the English media may have scared some people off backing the bid. He commented on the fact that those involved within the higher echelons of English football accept the “rough and tumble” of the press but just accept it. He added that “there is no question that there is a different view abroad.”
Focus again is centred on the BBC’s report with former Liverpool FC chairman Martin Broughton describing the Panorama investigation as being “an attempt to promote a tired, dated programme which has seen better days.
Former FA executive Mark Palios criticises the timing of the programme, a feeling echoed by Andy Anson, adding “it may well have had an impact. I don’t think it would have helped at all.” But he also went on to say “looking at the extent to which there may be a deeper seated problem than just the Panorama programme”
However, the rumours of the effect that the media had on proceedings were dismissed by England 2018 ambassador David Beckham in his saying, “I’ve heard rumours that we lost due to the British press. I hope this isn’t the reason. I believe in free press and they are incredibly supportive of the game I love.”
Former England manger Graham Taylor also defended the media: “I’m not one of those blaming Panorama – this has been going on for years. They (Fifa) should really be investigated and of course the journalists are very good at that”
The allegations of corruption by certain Fifa members is yet another example of how sport’s reputation can be tarnished by claims of dishonesty. We at FrontRow Legal will be inviting comment from guest speaker Anthony Clavane from the Sunday Mirror on the role of the media in uncovering corruption in sport, as well as comments from Rick Parry and Ian Smith