The BBC last night aired its controversial Panorama investigation into alleged bribery among Fifa officials. Yet the figures behind the nation’s 2018 World Cup bid haven’t exactly been running up to congratulate the broadcaster with the gleeful homoerotic display so typical of their on-field brethren. They’re seeing it as a blatant own goal.
The show alleged that Fifa officials Issa Hayatou, chief of the Confederation of African Football, Nicolas Leoz, from Paraguay, and Ricardo Teixeira from Brazil, took a hefty chunk in bribes from International Sport and Leisure (ISL), a sports marketing firm which was awarded some rather lucrative World Cup rights.
While Hayatou is accused of taking 100,000 French Francs (about £13,000), Leoz is said to have received more than $700,000 (£450,000), while a whopping $9.5m (£6.1m) was handed to a company called Sanud – which, according to a Brazilian senate inquiry, is directly linked to Teixeira.
ISL’s alleged exchanges totalled $100m, and all took place between 1989 and 1999. Which the England World Cup 2018 bid team has said should be left in the past. Yet the whole charade suddenly becomes far more timely given that the same executives who allegedly took a chunk of that sum will vote this week on the 2018 and 2022 bids. Woops.
Anyone who now fears football may not be coming home for a while won’t be glad to hear that the show also made allegations against Fifa vice-president Jack Warner, who’s seen as crucial to the England bid. Panorama accused Warner of repeatedly attempting to supply ticket touts, claiming that he ordered $84k’s worth of 2010 World Cup tickets from the Fifa ticket office in a deal that subsequently fell through.
Warner, who dismisses the claims as a ‘rehash of the same old bulls***’, is due for lunch with David Cameron before Thursday’s vote. That’s one meal that could leave both parties with a bad case of indigestion.
Over at City Hall, Neale Coleman, policy adviser to London mayor Boris Johnson, also had money on his mind. He said that the city could lose out on £1bn in revenue if the England bid falls through.
Uefa president Michel Platini insisted the Panorama fallout wouldn’t affect England's bid. Then he had a dig at the manner in which the British press has consistently attacked Fifa over the years. But it’s not just the press who seem convinced there’s foul play afoot within the governing body: Fifa itself banned two executives earlier this month over allegations of taking cash for votes.
England’s bid team is miffed that Panorama should choose to broadcast its allegations now, given that they doesn’t relate to what’s currently happening. An England 2018 release accused the show of raking over a series of historical allegations, and called it ‘an embarrassment to the BBC’.
But isn’t that missing the point? Their main concern seems to be that the allegations will derail the bid – not that it’s surprising or in anyway questionable that the alleged behaviour may have happened in the first place. Whatever happened to the beautiful game?