The failure of our World Cup bid may finally bring reforms that restore sanity to English football (report, 3 December).
In the past 20 years the top English clubs have been taken over by foreign billionaires as playthings to be discarded once their owners become bored; clubs throughout the land have seen their grounds sold off and the profits extracted by carpet baggers. Most clubs, even the most successful, have been saddled with vast debts that threaten their existence. The saturation media coverage of the Premiership is nauseating, including its hysterical obsession with the private lives of players, many of whom are grossly overrated and paid shockingly high salaries that shame the country.
The destruction of the traditional values of the game and the perversion of competition to the demands of television have destroyed the fantasy, community spirit and fundamental ordinariness of supporting one's local team. There are more children in Yorkshire sporting the ludicrously expensive shirts of Chelsea and Manchester United than the colours of local teams.
In all this the ordinary football supporter has been marginalised, priced out of attending games and invited instead to become an armchair fan whose subscription enriches Rupert Murdoch and drives the very commercialisation that is wrecking the sport.
Had we won this bid, it would have been seen as a vindication of the Premiership, the celebrity culture and the commercial exploitation that is destroying the beautiful game.
Irrespective of the exposures in the Sunday Times or on the BBC, England never stood a chance of securing the 2018 competition.
As many people within the football community have pointed out before now, the English FA is hopelessly hogtied by its own inefficiencies and incompetence. If it is to stand any chance of succeeding on the world stage, in competition or in bids for tournaments, it needs to clean up its own act first, restructure the ridiculous league system and foster the game properly among schools and youth teams, both male and female.
Maybe then it can shed the pretence of being the world's number one football association, lay aside the defeatist whinging and stop living off a 44-year-old success story.
I find it difficult to stomach the self-righteous indignation of commentators on England's failure to be chosen to host the World Cup in 2018. It does not seem unjust that the tournament should be awarded to a nation that has not previously hosted it and currently lacks the opportunity to watch players of international stature exercising their skills, week by week, on grounds throughout the land. We were generous enough to accept that the last World Cup provided a wonderful boost for football, and for much else, in South Africa. So why not apply the same logic to its going to Russia?
In May, Lord Triesman was forced into a position where he had to quit as Football Association chairman after what had amounted to a witch-hunt. He had already resigned as chairman of the 2018 World Cup Bid shortly after being secretly recorded by the media making bribery allegations about rival countries' attempts to secure the tournament. We have since heard that Fifa is investigating vote-selling claims of Fifa executive committee members and we have had the Panaroma investigation. David Cameron said England had the best technical bid, and yet England secured only two votes.
Therefore I ask if Lord Triesman was right? And whether he should be reinstated?
Qatar is a little strip of sand protruding into the Arabian Gulf, half the size of Wales with no football heritage whatsoever. Have the Fifa people ever been in the Gulf in June or July? The temperatures are extreme to say the least.
N F Edwards.
At least the England football team's quadrennial humiliation will once again be far from home.
Pursue the banks for mis-selling
It's now eight weeks since the British Bankers Association launched its Judicial Review into the Financial Services Authority (FSA) rules on payment protection insurance (PPI). This means customers of those banks who have stopped processing complaints will start receiving letters to say their claim has been put on hold.
The banks' latest move smacks of a shameless attempt to duck out of giving millions of consumers the redress they deserve. Since the FSA's rules on PPI complaints still apply, there is no excuse for the banks to stall. Which? wants them to stick to the rules and carry on processing their customers' legitimate claims.
People who think they've been mis-sold PPI should get their complaint in anyway and take it to the Financial Ombudsman Service if need be. Regardless of what happens in the courts, the banks can't be allowed to wriggle out of dealing with it.
Chief Executive, Which?
Tatchell takes a stand
It is not true that I advocate "the right of gay people to have public sex in parks and lavatories" ("Elton's Heroes #2 Peter Tatchell", 1 December). What I have said is that gay and heterosexual couples who have discreet sex, such as in a deserted park in the middle of the night, should not be prosecuted. No one should have sex in places that the public are likely to frequent and where offence could be caused. Public toilets are not an appropriate place for anyone to have sex.
Moreover, there is nothing "cranky and even bizarre" about our Equal Love campaign, which seeks to end the ban on heterosexual civil partnerships. I am against all discrimination. Just as gay couples should be allowed to have a civil marriage, straight couples should be allowed to have a civil partnership. Many heterosexuals don't like the sexist history of marriage. They don't want to be called husband and wife, and would prefer the more co-equal terminology of "civil partner".
In a democracy, we should all be equal before the law. Any discrimination based on sexual orientation is wrong, regardless of whether the victims are gay or straight.
This morning I paused to take a photo of a snow-laden fir tree in somebody's front garden because it had a pleasing Christmas-tree appearance. As I raised my compact camera, a banging at the front window brought my attention to a young woman gesticulating to stop. I mouthed: "Why not?" She said: "Because it's my house."
I had every right take a photo standing in the street, but out of respect to her, I gave a shrug and moved on. What have we done to make this younger generation so paranoid about others' motives that an old man taking a picture of a Christmas tree is perceived as a threat?
A great subject
There are more fundamental reasons why those with geography degrees are so employable (2 December). Geography courses educate students in a range of modes of enquiry – those of the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. They equip students with a variety of transferable skills such as literacy, numeracy and graphicacy. And they teach awareness of the links between the local and the global and between people and their environments, and they provide knowledge and develop understanding of location and landscape.
Geography students study not only physical environments but also contemporary and historical societies and cultures.
How sad that a subject highly valued by employers has not received due recognition from politicians – it was a big mistake to make it possible for children to give up geography at the age of 14.
Dr Alan Baker FGRS FBA
So bright sunshine can make pedestrians invisible (letters, 2 December). A useful idea for the CIA perhaps? More realistic advice comes from the Highway Code: "If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary stop."
Also, granted that those on bike or foot should be well lit-up at night and fluorescent in daylight, does new technology enable the impatient rural motorist to see around corners?
Talbot is tops
Thanks for finally seeing sense and getting someone of the calibre of Talbot Church on your pages. I've never seen why Independent Royalists should be forced to look elsewhere for these essential insights. These first two weeks have been a delight! I hope you'll keep him on after the wedding.
Perspectives on 'free schools'
Teachers will still be shackled
As an advanced skills teacher with over 30 years' experience, mostly in challenging schools in the north of England, I must comment on your interview with Geoffrey Canada, who appears to have only taught for three years (29 November).His assertion that free schools will give "teachers a freer reign (sic) to teach what they like" is erroneous; any freedom will be restricted to heads and favoured pressure groups. Classroom teachers will not be allowed professional autonomy. The example of academies, which already have this "freedom", is ampleevidence of this.
Second, if the aim is to raise standards, how will allowing these schools to set their own pay levels help? The global sum will not be increased, so any change can only be to push pay levels down. Again the academies show what will happen: massive bonus payments for managers and nothing for teachers.
Third, whatever the situation may be in the US, schools in Britain have well-developed disciplinary and capability procedures. Far from being reluctant to use these it has been my experience that some head teachers actively use them as a bullying tool for getting rid of staff they take a dislike to.
Lastly, in Britain the teachers' unions, in particular NASUWT, have worked with employers and government to raise standards in schools. Far from being a problem, the unions have often been the only ones standing up for the rights of teachers and pupils to learn in an orderly setting, undisturbed by violence and disruption.
The poor will be penalised
It is worse than your correspondent Peter Robb (letters, 1 December) realises. One of our local independent schools, which has been running at a loss, is applying for free school status. Over five years it proposes to double its intake and embark on a huge building program. It will be a faith school and it will, of course, select its intake. The school says that other solutions to contain its costs and retain parents have not worked.
Our local, highly successful schools are already suffering cuts and will have to endure more while the government subsidises a private, selective faith school. This suggests that the policy is to privatise all schools except those which serve the poor and disadvantaged.