England's bid team have written to Sepp Blatter and the other members of Fifa's executive committee imploring the men who will decide the hosts of the 2018 World Cup finals not to "negatively judge" England as a result of the corruption allegations levelled at sections of the governing body through the British media.
In a letter seen by The Independent and signed by Geoff Thompson and David Dein, the bid's chairman and international chairman respectively, they point out that it was England who first drew Fifa's attention to the "activities of a bogus company [approaching Ex-Co members] which turned out to be the Sunday Times investigation".
The letter also refers to the forthcoming BBC Panorama investigation into Fifa that is to be screened three days before decision day on 2 December. It says: "We are alerting you to the fact that the programme appears in part to be raking over allegations some of which are 10 years old and have already been formally dealt with by Fifa and Swiss courts. We hope England's bid will not be judged negatively due to the activities of individual media organisations. We hope you appreciate that we have no control over the British media."
Fifa's ethics committee begins a three-day meeting today to decide if any action should be taken against the two Ex-Co members, Reynald Temarii and Amos Adamu, accused of corruption by The Sunday Times – they are currently suspended – and claims that Spain/Portugal, another 2018 bidder, and 2022 candidates Qatar have colluded over voting. The ethics committee is due to announce its decision on Wednesday, the same day Fifa's inspection report into the bidders is published.
A busy week at Fifa's Zurich headquarters will be completed by an emergency Ex-Co meeting – which includes Thompson as a Fifa vice-president – on Friday to consider the outcome reached by the ethics committee.
The inspection report is expected to offer a much-needed boost to England's bid, which is seen to have slipped behind Russia and the joint Iberian campaign. England is considered a low-risk choice compared to their rivals, but there are fears it has been badly harmed in Fifa's eyes by the corruption claims. Today's letter and last week's trip by Dein to Zurich to meet Blatter reflect the recognition within the England bid that they have ground to make up and fear they may suffer from any backlash following the corruption claims.
In the letter, Thompson and Dein write of feeling "solidarity with you and your colleagues" in a "difficult time" and go on to say: "The England bid stands on its own above any such activities, representing our country as a whole." They also point out, though, that the British media "can be a powerful force for change for global football".
Andy Anson, the bid's chief executive, spoke to the BBC's director general Mark Thompson last week to request Panorama – whose programme is entitled "Fifa's Dirty Secrets" – be scheduled earlier than the week of the vote itself. Last week, internal BBC emails shown to The Independent claimed the programme "exposes new evidence of bribery and accuses some executives of taking kickbacks". But the bid team do not believe the programme contains any new allegations. They believe the "raking over [of old] allegations" refer to the ISL agency, who acted as a marketing agency for Fifa and collapsed in 2001 with debts of £153m. In June, a Swiss court determined that some Fifa officials had taken inducements from ISL but they were all foreign nationals. Blatter is Swiss.
All the bidders for 2018 – outsiders Netherlands/Belgium make up the numbers – and 2022 will assemble in Zurich in two weeks' time along with the Ex-Co members. Two days of presentations will culminate with the vote on 2 December. The winning bid will need a majority from the Ex-Co, which will contain 22 or 24 members depending on whether Temarii and Adamu's suspension is upheld this week. As president, Blatter has the casting vote if required.Reuse content