Tuesday, November 30, 2010

funny old game

In just a couple of days from now, the executive committee of football’s world governing body, FIFA, will decide whether or not England will host the 2018 world cup. A BBC Panorama programme, shown yesterday, accused three members of that committee of taking very large bribes some years ago. It also showed further evidence supporting their allegations that corruption, deceit and cover-up spread deeper than just those three men and landed on several others, including former and current presidents of the organisation.

The BBC have naturally been criticised for the timing of the programme in that the critics say it might have an adverse effect on England’s bid because, despite its technical merit, some of the FIFA power players will vote against it as a protest against themselves and their colleagues being caught out. The critics' flawed logic then is that we should not expose corruption in the fear that it might encourage others to act corruptly.

So should the programme have been postponed until after the hosting decision has been made ? That would be worse. If England win it then the BBC would be accused of concealing the truth; if England lose then it will be accused of ‘sour grapes’ and the strength of its allegations would be diluted.

The English FA eagerly joined the critics, stating that the BBC was 'raking over historical allegations which are not relevant to the current bidding process'. That’s fine then; if the allegations are not relevant to our bid then they should not prejudice it. Or perhaps the FA has a nasty feeling that they will prejudice it and, if so, the FA should clearly explain why. Which members of FIFA does the FA think will vote against our bid solely because they don’t like the accusations ?

If we are selected as 2018 hosts then we will be subject to FIFA stipulations that we change our immigration visa rules and give tax exemptions to FIFA and their chosen sponsors; laws that apply to the rest of us will be waived for individuals and organisations named by FIFA. The Dutch (who are also co-bidding with Belgium though without much hope) think that, far from being a money spinner, hosting the tournament would lose the country about €150m.

So the England bid remains in place, awaiting judgement, whilst the bid team, the FA, the government and all other critics of the BBC turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the highly suspect behaviour of FIFA and its individual executive members. Do we see the success of our bid as more important than the integrity of the way world football is run ? Are we putting self-interest before responsibility, honesty and accountability ? Isn’t that what the FIFA hierarchy is accused of doing?

The final result is that, as long as we don’t want to offend FIFA by voicing concerns over the substantial evidence of corruption in their organisation and demanding an independent enquiry, then they will do exactly what they like and how they like because no country that craves their favour will challenge them. The upside is that we will host the world cup every 50 years or so. Maybe.



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