As the World Cup day of reckoning approached, David Beckham & co. were confident. We already had the infrastructure in place, we were told that we had the best technical bid and, in a time when money talks, we even had the best commercial bid. What could possibly go wrong?
Only getting a meagre two votes (one of which was from a British FIFA representative) is what went wrong. In less time than it takes for Sepp Blatter to open an envelope, fingers were being pointed and excuses were being made as to why the bids from Spain/Portugal, the Netherlands/Belgium and Russia were all suddenly deemed more attractive than our own. Could the media “hoo haa”, as Boris Johnson put it, really be the reason why our dreams of hosting a major football tournament were so cruelly dashed?
Much of the talk of course is surrounding the BBC’s Panorama show which aired on Monday evening. The show, which exposed corruption within FIFA’s ‘family’, has been roundly criticised for being badly timed, not in the public interest and ultimately costing England its first World Cup since 1966.
After watching the first few minutes I was worried that the show would end up as a mere polemic fuelled by the bitterness of a man who had got himself banned from the grounds of FIFA headquarters, and in some ways that was exactly what it was. But this should not mask the damning content of the show and the conduct of the men who we were putting our £15m bid in the hands of. The men accused of wrong doing were FIFA big-hitters Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou, Ricardo Teixeira and Jack Warner. Was this show in this in the public interest? You bet.
The BBC’s Executive Editor and Commissioning Editor for TV Current Affairs, Clive Edwards, told BBC Radio 4 the reasoning behind airing the show prior to Thursday’s announcement: “Some people have said that it would have been better to do it after the vote but it is surely nonsense to suggest that you know a process could be flawed and you don’t say anything until after it has happened. I am not prepared to sit on information we have. I believe that it is in everyone’s interest that there should be a fair process and that corruption should be exposed.”
I hope now that we’ve lost our bid people will sit up and take notice of the show rather than brushing it under the carpet and pretending that it didn’t happen. These allegations need to be investigated further to clean up the world game, and thankfully the International Olympic Committee seems to be doing so. The BBC should be applauded for exposing these issues, not condemned. If FIFA is in a mess then football itself loses and unless an outside party tries to clean it up then it seems that nothing will be done.
A bizarre, but rather fitting comparison seems to be the MP expenses scandal that was exposed a couple of years ago. Was the Sunday Telegraph criticized for publishing its findings of misspent money? No, because it brought to light a corrupt area of an organization serving the public that was being casually overlooked from within. After media and public outcry the issue was fixed in order to save its reputation, let’s hope we see something similar from Mr Blatter. Shouldn’t he be thanking the BBC for opening his eyes to the bad behavior of his employees? I find it hard to stomach that our bid, according to FIFA executives, was “killed” by our media
Throughout the entire bidding process the footballing world was told about how much England loves football, and I believe that Panorama has shown exactly that. England loves football so much that we want to see the world governing body run properly, ethically and most importantly legally. Perhaps the World Cup wasn’t awarded to England for the reasons highlighted in the show, rather than the show itself.