English football's relations with Fifa were in meltdown yesterday after the acting chairman of the Football Association declared that the world governing body was untrustworthy and the FA prepared to withdraw Fabio Capello's team from their proposed friendly against Thailand in June.
The shockwaves of the failed bid for the 2018 World Cup finals – after the humiliation of elimination in the first round of voting on Thursday with just two votes – were still being felt as English football came to terms with the decision.
The FA's acting chairman, Roger Burden, withdrew his candidacy to take the post on a permanent basis with an uncompromising open letter in which he said he was unprepared to deal with Fifa – as FA chairman he would be the national governing body's main point of contact with Fifa.
Burden, 64, a former chairman of Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society, said that in the light of England's bid being rated top of Fifa's independent assessment of the economic and technical merits, he "struggled" to understand how they earned just two votes.
He added: "I had applied for the position of chairman. I recognise that an important part of the role is liaison with Fifa, our global governing body. I am not prepared to deal with people whom I cannot trust and I have withdrawn my candidacy."
Burden, who congratulated Russia on their victory, wrote: "On top of that, Prince William, the Prime Minister and other members of our delegation were promised votes that did not materialise. We have had a magnificent team of over 20 dedicated people and spent many millions of pounds over the past few years trying to bring the World Cup to England."
In the meantime, the FA is moving to cancel a proposed end-of-season friendly with Thailand in Bangkok in early June. The fixture had been intended as a means of securing the vote of Worawi Makudi, the Thai Fifa executive committee member, who even before Thursday had informed the bid team he was voting for Spain.
Makudi had even approached England 2018 officials to ask whether they would agree to go ahead with the friendly if he did not vote for them. The bid team had deferred that decision until after the vote but the scale of their defeat on Thursday convinced them that the game is a non-starter – for fans and players.
Andy Anson, the 2018 bid team's chief executive, said yesterday that Fifa's voting process was so flawed that there would not be another English bid to host the tournament until it was reformed. He joked that Fifa, which has given the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country with no football history and blistering summer heat, would one day hold the tournament in "Antarctica with heated stadiums".
Having courted the Fifa ExCo members so assiduously over the past two years, top officials in the FA and the bid team were finally free to give vent to their true feelings about Fifa.
Anson suggested that instead of concentrating the power of choosing World Cup hosts in the hands of the usual 24 ExCo members – currently reduced to 22 – the venue should go back to being decided by the Fifa congress, as it was up to the 1970s. That would mean one vote for every one of Fifa's 208 associations, although the chances of the ExCo voting to dilute its own power are slim.
There was also the suggestion that English football might join up with the disgruntled federations of the United States and Australia to put pressure on Fifa to reform. The more radical elements are suggesting a breakaway world governing body, which would prompt a fierce reaction from Fifa and result in England's exclusion from future World Cup finals.
Anson said that all the feedback from ExCo members since the vote was that the English media – the investigation by The Sunday Times that led to the suspension of two ExCo members and the BBC Panorama documentary – had "killed" the bid. In response, Anson said he believed other factors had a bigger influence.
In the build-up to Monday's Panorama, Anson accused the BBC of being "unpatriotic", a criticism he admitted yesterday was made reluctantly in order to distance the bid from the allegations against some ExCo members including Jack Warner, who promised his vote to David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham, only to renege on Thursday.
"I had to take some risks that I was going to take a kicking from you guys [the English media] because we had to align ourselves with Fifa in order to win the World Cup bid," Anson said. "I had to do that and I would have been negligent in my duties if I had not. It is bloody tough, because would I rather live in England and have our media do what you do? Yes, 100 per cent."Reuse content