Why England shouldn’t play FIFA’s game

I didn’t watch last night’s Panorama investigation into corruption within FIFA (I, like most rational people, was watching El Clasico on Sky instead) but I didn’t need to. The main point was that FIFA officials use and abuse their position to enrich themselves at the expense of the game they’re supposed to be the custodians of. We knew this already.

The supreme example of this is Jack Warner, the head of the Trinidad and Tobago FA and one of FIFA’s Vice Presidents. During the 2006 World Cup he was implicated in ticket touting while also neglecting to pay his country’s players for their participation in the same tournament. He escaped punishment and has still not paid his players, four years down the line. Last night’s allegations implicate another FIFA Vice President, Issa Hayatou of Cameroon, as well as the heads of the Paraguayan and Brazilian FA’s. A Sunday Times ‘cash for votes’ investigation in October snagged the FIFA committee members from Nigeria and Tahiti. I could go on, but won’t.

It’s these same men who the England 2018 bid team have to persuade this week, as the World Cup 2018 and 2022 bidding reaches it’s climax in Zurich. England, longtime favourites to host the 2018 tournament, suddenly became much less fancied after the Sunday Times’ exposé last month. Despite having the best bid (England could host a World Cup tomorrow if asked) it seems our chance is dead and buried because of FIFA’s unwillingness to subject themselves to the scrutiny of our press for the next eight years.

So here’s what England 2018 should do. Go home. Withdraw from the bidding process. Refuse to play FIFA’s game any longer, declare the bidding process to be compromised and demand far reaching investigations into FIFA’s finances.

This will, of course, change little. But it does the FA, David Cameron, David Beckham, Prince William and the rest of the bid team few favours that they’re willing to turn a blind eye to corruption in exchange for a football tournament. If we leave now, rather than face the wrath of FIFA’s electors we may retain something they lost long ago, our dignity.

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