The call by David Bernstein, the former chairman of the FA, for a boycott of the World Cup as a means of forcing change at a corrupt and discredited Fifa, the sport’s global governing body, is gallant but almost certainly self-defeating.
A withdrawal by England alone would be seen as sour grapes on the part of a country whose absence would be barely noticed. More promising, on paper, is a Europe-wide boycott. But even that seems unlikely, despite the sympathetic noises emanating from Germany, the reigning world champions.
Far from all 52 members of Uefa, the continent’s administrative body, would be in favour, and the move could be portrayed as football’s richest countries selfishly parting from the have-nots in the developing world.
But if an internal cure is impossible, there are other means of cleansing the Augean stables at Fifa. The first is a withdrawal by the World Cup’s sponsors, which would hit the organisation and its kingpins in the only place they understand – the wallet. Then again the record of corporations in putting principle above profit is not especially encouraging.
A second avenue is the current investigation by the FBI into the corruption allegations swept under the carpet by Fifa’s mendacious summary of the 430-page report – a version instantly disowned by the original’s author Michael Garcia, the American prosecutor commissioned to investigate the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 competition to Qatar. Unlike some parties Fifa deals with, the FBI is not easy to shake off.
Most important of all however, the original Garcia report must be made public. Fifa’s refusal to do so is outrageous. The most popular sport on the planet belongs to the world, not to a self-important, out-of-touch coterie in Zurich, whose recent conduct has been disgraceful. If ever there was a need for a whistle-blower – or a good old-fashioned leaker – it is now.Reuse content