Chris Whitehouse heads The Whitehouse Consultancy, and is an Isle of Wight councillor.
The granting of football’s 2022 World Cup Tournament to Qatar was demonstrably corrupt, and Russia’s bid for 2018 Tournament was equally tainted, but that doesn’t excuse the actions and comments of our own Football Association, and the Minister for Sport should say so.
It is acknowledged internationally, and is hardly a surprise to those who follow the career of Sepp Blatter, the Chairman of football’s international body, FIFA, that Qatar frankly bought the votes of sufficient numbers of those who had a vote in the decision to ensure that they won the bid for 2022; and the news that the computers used by the Russian bid for 2018 had been “destroyed” along with all the evidence they contained speaks volumes.
Greg Dyke, the FA Chairman, was quick to dismiss FIFA’s summary of the findings of its investigators’ inquiry into the handling of the bids for the next two tournaments, which suggested that that those behind the England bid (for the 2018 Tournament) have crossed acceptable ethical lines – whilst the investigation, FIFA suggested, had concluded that overall fair decisions had nevertheless been made to award the tournaments to Russia and Qatar.
But already Dyke is squirming a little. England is not Qatar, and its ethical traditions are not those of Russia. The FA now admits that it secured a work placement for the son of a leading FIFA influencer, Jack Warner; that it spent £35,000 on a gala dinner for the Caribbean Football Union at Warner’s request; that a UK training camp was provided for the Trinidad and Tobago Under 20s Team in 2009; and that other “improper requests” (in the words of the FIFA investigator) were made by those with key FIFA voting rights.
In the great scheme of the award of the rights to hosting international sporting events, including sadly those of the Olympic Games, such chicanery is modest, to say the least, when stacked up against the much more blatant corruption that goes on in the support of bids made by other countries. But in this country we frankly expect better of those acting in our nation’s name.
By Dyke’s own admission, the FA was fully aware that FIFA was and is corrupt. Indeed, Dyke has now said that the FA would not bid again for the World Cup whilst Sepp Blatter remains in charge at FIFA. That’s rather shutting the stable door after the £21 million cost of the bid has bolted, and begs the question as to why such a position of principle is adopted only after the FA failed to secure the Tournament for which it bid. Are our national sport’s ethics really so flexible?
Dyke has questions to answer about the FA’s ethical approach and the wisdom of the above money being spent in participating in a corrupt process, the outcome of which was never going to be what the FA wanted. Even though, to be fair, these decisions were taken and actions implemented prior to Dyke taking the chair at the FA last year, he was wrong to try to sweep such legitimate criticisms under the carpet.
Football matters – not just in terms of national pride, but also because it is something about which millions of people care passionately. Helen Grant, the Minister for Sport, (who has been rather silent to date on these issues), should be engaging to ensure that the FA behaves ethically, doesn’t squander valuable funds on corrupt bids, and works to do all it can to clean out the Augean Stables of FIFA. And if Dyke does not adopt enthusiastically such a new paradigm, his career at the FA risks ending as ingloriously as did his time at the BBC.
If the Minister and the FA need prodding in the right direction, then perhaps the Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport, so ably chaired by John Whittingdale, also of this parish, might build on its one day session held in July and launch a full investigation into this whole torrid business.