The “simple football player” made a passionate and successful case for his country
The BBC is getting a lot of anger for exposing FIFA vote buying in their Panorama section which a lot of misguided souls are blaming for England’s failed 2018 bid. Whether the investigation was monumentally badly timed or driven by a political agenda, the perception is it spooked the 22 FIFA members into giving the World Cup to Russia where such a free press is anathema.
The expose led to David Cameron government trying to get back into the good books by groveling to the FIFA higher ups and de-legitimizing the BBC. But as David Conn points out in retrospect, England doing so, ceded the moral ground. Voiding any legitimate grounds to complain. The disharmonious relationship between the FA and the Premier League had already jeopardized their bid long before the BBC decided to get involved.
However, if we are to accept a timeline of moral cessation, then we have to go back to 2006 when Chelsea was bought by Roman Abramovich. As Vladimir Putin’s most favoured oligarch, he was present at the presentation and all smiles even as Wikileaks was document dumping Russia’s lawless nature. The “mafia state” that had given him his millions to finance Chelsea without any questions asked make English accusations of a fix, self righteous and hypocritical. It did not take Wikileaks to reveal how Abramovich had amassed his wealth – this was common knowledge following a fallout with Boris Berezovsky, his erstwhile business partner.
Sepp Blatter might invoke a high minded mantra of opening up the football world but on a more cynical level Russia and Qatar represent a path to least resistance. Do not ask, do not tell might be eventually repealed in the USA but under Blatter it will get a new meaning. Russia is controlled by a cash rich autocratic government which brooks little press interference making it easier for Blatter to get everything he wants without getting his hands soiled.
If there is any good that comes off this it is the possibility of the BBC unshackling itself of all restraint in exposing the corruption and cronyism within FIFA. We should look to more Panorama editions. Andrew Jennings has enough to bring out a sequel to Foul! England will move on from this setback with a poignant reminder- there is no substitute for a free press. Even more so in this day and age.