Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fifa row has hit England 2018 bid

Fifa headquarters
Fifa will decide on the location of the 2018 World Cup on 2 December

By David Bond
Sports Editor

England's 2018 World Cup bid has been "significantly harmed" by a newspaper investigation into the bidding process, says a key member of the campaign team.

A member of the Fifa executive committee previously claimed there would be no backlash against England.

But it now seems the Sunday Times probe into two members of the committee has left England with a mountain to climb ahead of the vote on 2 December.

"It has significantly harmed England's bid," a senior member told BBC Sport.

With four weeks to go to the decision, England's bid team has not given up all hope of turning the situation around.

But senior sources say that the prospect of any future media investigations into the conduct of Fifa officials - including a potential Panorama programme on the BBC - could be fatal for their chances.

Fifa inspector on England's 2018 bid

One member of the bid team told the BBC: "The question is: can we recover from this? Fifa members feel they are being persecuted by the British media.

"It isn't dead and the next two or three weeks will be delicate but England's bid has been damaged and it's going to take a lot of hard work to repair that damage."

One move being considered by England's bid is to ask all the editors of the national newspapers and broadcasters to write to Fifa declaring their support for the 2018 bid.

Whether that would address the damage done in recent weeks is unlikely but it was a tactic used by the team leading London's bid for the 2012 Olympics when organisers feared that a Panorama investigation could derail the campaign.

The difference then was London 2012 had more than a year to reassure IOC members that awarding the Games to London would not mark the start of a seven-year campaign against the people who run the Olympics.

Fifa's ethics committee is due to meet from 15-17 November to discuss whether to take further action against the two executive committee members - Amos Adamu from Nigeria and Reynald Temarii from Tahiti - who were accused in the Sunday Times expose.

Reporters from the newspaper posed as lobbyists for a consortium of private American companies who wanted to secure the World Cup for the United States. Adamu has been accused of asking to be paid £500,000 - half of that up front - to build four artificial football pitches in his home country.

Temarii, a Fifa vice-president who represents the Oceania confederation, was alleged to have requested £1.5m for a sports academy to be built in the region.

Both deny any wrongdoing and will fight the allegations when they appear before Fifa's ethics committee later this month.

The committee will also consider claims made by the former Fifa general secretary Michel Zen Ruffinen that Spain and Portugal's bid team for 2018 has formed a voting alliance with Qatar for 2022 - a move which is against Fifa's bidding rules.

One can ask whether such an action is appropriate, trying to set traps for people. It is a deeply rooted problem [with the English media]

Fifa president Sepp Blatter

Bid leaders from Spain/Portugal and Qatar are refusing to comment officially on the allegations although the head of the Portuguese FA, Gilberto Modail has categorically denied the claims which Zen Ruffinen now says were an exaggeration to impress the reporters posing as American lobbyists.

The Fifa president Sepp Blatter signalled the start of a backlash against the British media last Friday when he said: "One can ask whether such an action is appropriate, trying to set traps for people. It is a deeply rooted problem [with the English media].

"Who is benefitting from this situation and who is being harmed, we are asking ourselves why did it happen and why did it happen specifically by English journalists? We are looking at that."

And the head of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, has used his blog to attack the British media. He wrote: "Is it ethical to use unethical methods to protect the ethic? How will we clean dirty laundry by using dirty water?"

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