Sam Wallace: Are England ready to go down on bended knee for the cause of 2018?

The English bid is not beyond criticism but Warner is impossible to take seriously
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The Independent Online

Should England win the right to host the 2018 World Cup finals, there will be many sacrifices. There will be funds invested from government and council tax-payers' money spent by the bidding cities from Gateshead to Bristol. But the greatest cost of all will be our pride, when we are forced to grovel to men like Jack Warner.

Last week, Warner launched a rambling attack on England's bid for 2018, a rant that really should have about as much cachet as a lecture from Sulaiman al-Fahim on managing investor relations. Or Joey Barton's thoughts on social cohesion. Unfortunately, however, Warner is one of the 24 men on the Fifa executive committee who will decide the hosts of the World Cup in 2018.

So English football had to listen to what he said, nod their heads and then pretend to be grateful for the privilege.

Warner has often been described as a "controversial" character. It was three years ago that the story of the ticketing scandal surrounding his son broke over the World Cup finals in Germany.

To recap, Daryan Warner sold 5,400 tickets for the 2006 finals for many times their face value. Many would surely have considered their position given their son's involvement, but apparently not Warner. After an investigation Fifa fined Daryan £500,000, what they estimated he had earned from the sales. As for Warner, he was found to have had no involvment but he was instructed to "oversee the activities of his son a little more." And, er, that was it.

There are more stories of Warner's unconventional approach to governing his fiefdom of Concacaf, the Fifa region that takes in the Caribbean as well as north and central America. He is also the president of the Trinidad & Tobago football federation whose players at the 2006 World Cup sought to take their federation to arbitration to get the appearance money they said was owed to them. The issue was eventually settled out of court.

None of this seemed to trouble Warner, who has become a crucial ally of Sepp Blatter's. Which was why, after Warner had made his strange, unfocused attack on the England 2018 bid last week, the relevant executives did the relevant grovelling.

Of course, the English bid is not beyond criticism; it should welcome constructive criticism. But Warner is impossible to take seriously. The likes of Lord Triesman and 2018 chief executive Andy Anson might suspect this, they just cannot do anything about it. This is life on planet Fifa and – because we are so desperate to get this wretched tournament – we have no option but to listen.

The key criticism from Warner, in what was a pretty confusing attack on England's 2018 bid, seemed to be that the Queen and David Beckham had not been shoved to the forefront to meet ExCo. These Fifa executives often appear to act as if they consider themselves royalty so it is no surprise that they expect to meet the real thing.

This is the power of Fifa and its ExCo. They operate beyond the boundaries of national governments because they have the power to suspend any national football association if they feel those associations are under threat of investigation or domestic political pressure. This gives them extraordinary global power.

Funnily enough, Warner has already met Beckham in June last year. That was when the England squad, at the end of a long season, were shipped out to Trinidad for a friendly to curry favour with Warner. Fabio Capello even made Beckham captain for the occasion. Before the match, Warner surpassed himself by having a row over the venue with his government and threatening to call the whole thing off.

Does doing those kind of favours even impress these people? Towards the end of England's disastrous bid for the 2006 World Cup, the England team were sent to Malta in June 2000 to play a friendly to impress Malta's then ExCo delegate Joseph Mifsud. He voted for Germany the following month.

Next month the England players will fly six hours for a friendly in Qatar against Brazil. It is the Brazil Football Federation's choice of venue, their part of the deal that brought Brazil to Wembley for the first game at the new stadium. By happy coincidence, Doha, where the game is being played, happens to be the home-town of Mohammed bin Hammam, the president of the Asian football confederation and another ExCo member.

Lord Triesman, the FA and 2018 chairman, and Anson have promised that they will fight this campaign clean. No bungs, no backhanders, no under-the-table deals. We would not expect anything less. But more and more, you look at some of the characters involved and wonder whether the whole charade will be worth it.

No Wembley excuses for the not so famous 55

Something tells me that not all the 55 players picked for squads by Fabio Capello over the last 22 months who have been invited to the Belarus game at Wembley on Wednesday are going to relish the trip. Capello regards it as a thank you to all players for contributing in some way to the World Cup qualification campaign. It will be an awkward occasion for Michael Owen.

Try to write down all 55 – it takes some effort. Here's a clue: Jimmy Bullard, Joe Lewis, Michael Mancienne and Curtis Davies are among them and none of them even have an England cap. And you can bet that Capello will take note of those absentees who don't have a good excuse.

Ukraine must admit to more pressing priorities than football

Ah, sweet Dnipropetrovsk, with your grim Soviet architecture and your pyromaniac fans. The city itself has not been selected as a venue for Euro 2012 and, without being cruel, it is not hard to see why. It is anticipated that only Kiev will be picked as a venue in Ukraine, with all the other games being played at stadiums in Poland, the co-hosts.

It was not just the lit flares that were thrown onto the pitch at the start of the game on Saturday that told you this was a country that is not ready for a major international football tournament. Life looked very hard for a lot of people in the region around Dnipropetrovsk that I saw. How about improving their lot first and worrying about football second?

Saying sorry the Fergie way

Okay, so it was the kind of grudging, memorable-for-what-he-didn't-say type of apology. But give Sir Alex Ferguson some credit, he could have fought his corner and made it a lot worse for Alan Wiley.

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