Now that the dust has settled on the FIFA vote, and the weekend newspapers and TV programmes have conducted their inquests, what do we make of it all? Specifically, were the Sunday Times and Panorama right to publish their corruption allegations against FIFA so close to the vote. Also, how did the FA’s bid team handle the story?
Some media have reported that what happened in Zurich was totally corrupt. We are in no position to judge. One can at least state without fear of contradiction that the whole proceedings were murky. Against this background, the media appear to have backed off in their criticism of the BBC, so preposterous was the fact that England achieved only one vote (aside from that of its own delegate).
On the other hand, hundreds of people have telephoned the BBC to complain about Panorama in the wake of the failed bid (although reports like this always fail to mention the millions who haven’t rung to protest).
On the morning after the vote, England’s bid chief Andy Anson commendably highlighted the duplicity of delegates who promised their support and then reneged on their pledge.
However, Mr. Anson made a tactical error in describing the BBC, in the days before the vote, as “unpatriotic” for broadcasting the Panorama programme. He should have stayed aloof from the debate, stating that “Britain has a free media and we’ll leave it at that”.
FIFA delegates should have been assessing the various bids on their relative merits and on their relative merits alone. Media coverage of FIFA should not have entered into their considerations one jot as the coverage did not in any shape or form affect the quality of England’s bid.
In uttering the words he did, Mr. Anson more or less invited FIFA delegates to take the Panorama allegations into their considerations. If any FIFA delegate, in casting their vote, had interests in mind other than the quality of the bid then Mr. Anson in effect handed them an alibi – simply by playing FIFA’s game.
There were wise words on Sky News over the weekend from the FA’s former chief executive David Davies who said it wasn’t the fact that England didn’t win that angered people; rather the fact that we garnered only two votes while having the best technical bid.
The whole shoddy business has shown that you curtail a free press at your peril; also that FIFA might be due more, not fewer, exposures by the media in the future.