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Ian Wright said in the Sun newspaper on December 3rd: “I would love to see some proper investigations into FIFA rather than this Jennings bloke shouting at people.” And Wright has been calling for such investigations for hours, going back to 4pm on December 2nd. Instead of just shouting at people, investigative journalist Andrew Jennings should have delved deep into the workings of FIFA. Then he could have found enough information for a 400-page book, exposing, to pick some examples purely at random, the bribes, vote-rigging and ticket scandals in the secret world of FIFA. Rather than just shouting at people.
He could have detailed the extensive shenanigans surrounding the award of World Cup credit-card sponsorship to Visa, in breach of incumbent agreements with MasterCard. He could have detailed the resultant sacking of FIFA’s head of marketing, Jerome Valcke, for lying to both companies during negotiations, and FIFA’s statement declaring that they “cannot possibly accept such conduct among (their) own employees.” He could then have detailed the £45m cost to FIFA when they had to settle the issue out of court, and FIFA’s appointment, six days later, of their new general secretary, the senior administrator in world football… erm… Jerome Valcke. Instead of just shouting at people.
And if Jennings and Panorama were so sure of their FIFA corruption claims, why wait until three days before the World Cup bid vote took place? They should have been asking questions about the process, and the FIFA people involved three years ago, before English football authorities decided whether or not to bid. If Jennings and Panorama had wanted to “serve the public interest”, they should have done so then, perhaps getting an expert in the field of governance, to warn the English authorities to “reform (FIFA) first, otherwise they risk wasting a lot of money in a bidding procedure,” – somebody such as, for example, Dr. Marco Balmelli from the Basel Institute on Governance. They should have asked another FIFA expert, Alan Tomlinson, a long-time close studier of the organisation, what England’s bid team would have to contend with. He might well have told them:
“I think wonderful new stadiums are not enough. Having great sporting infrastructure isn’t the main thing in this sort of process. What is, is an awareness of the real politics of the FIFA world, and of the interests that really drive a lot of the voters and the key decision-makers at the heart of that world.”
Or something along those lines, at least.
Tomlinson could also have provided a view on the repugnant Jack Warner, the main “target” of bidders and investigative journalists alike. “A very, very experienced operator in this world,” he might have warned, who had done “very well out of England’s 2006 bid.” And Panorama could have dug into the BBC’s own archives to get the repugnant Warner’s ‘true’ views of the English, as he told the BBC’s own World Service that “nobody in Europe likes England. England, who invented the sport, has never had any impact on world football. For Europe, England is an irritant and it’s no fault of theirs, it’s just natural.” But all we got, three years later, was “this Jennings bloke shouting at people.”
Another question Jennings and Panorama should have asked then ask was, would an England bid get “fair play” from FIFA? They could perhaps have asked MasterCard’s lawyer, Martin Hyman, whether MasterCard got “fair play” from FIFA. Given that organisation’s bitter experiences (then recent ones), Hyman might have told them of FIFA’s “white lies, commercial lies, bluffs, pure lies, straight untruths and perjury.” He might have even noted, dryly, that Valcke “even lied when testifying about his lies.” Indeed, Jennings and Panorama could have quoted from the written judgement on the MasterCard case, the bit where the judge said that “Mr Valcke and his team’s dealings with FIFA’s long-standing partner MasterCard constitute the opposite of fair play,” – the same Mr Valcke whose punishment from FIFA president Sepp Blatter was the most powerful job in world football apart from his own. Rather more pertinent than “this Jennings bloke shouting at people.”
Jennings and Panorama had a golden opportunity to do “some proper investigations in October 2007, because of all of the above and more. And they were even handed a title on a plate. At that very time, a new FIFA Ethics Committee was formed but refused to look into any of the above ethical questions. The Panorama programme could have been called something like “FIFA and Co,” as the chair of this new but reluctant committee was Lord Coe, the same Lord Coe sat among England’s whiter-than-white bid team as the bid results were announced. Of course, those of you who didn’t know already will probably have guessed by now that Andrew Jennings’ 400-page book entitled Foul and subtitled, The secret world of FIFA: bribes, vote rigging and ticket scandals, was first published in 2005. And he introduced a Panorama programme entitled “FIFA and Coe,” which was transmitted on October 22nd 2007, a matter of days before the announcement that England would indeed be submitting a bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.
The bid team were warned that Warner was a liar, that ethics weren’t high on any of FIFA’s lists, that FIFA wasn’t about to make a judgement on the hosting of the World Cup on such trivialities as ability to do so, and much, much more. But all Ian Wright, and the England bid team, could hear was “this Jennings bloke shouting at people.” And that at least partly explains why they only got one vote out of their expensive, undignified kow-towing (assuming, that is, that England’s own voter Geoff Thompson voted for England, rather than falling asleep at some stage and voting the wrong way, in semi-conscious confusion). They can blame Andrew Jennings all they like. But they really ought to have listened to what he was shouting, rather than whingeing because he was shouting at all.
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What!? Ian Wright coming out with an ill-thought out reactionary opinion? Surely not! Great piece. I had the pleasure of reading Andrew Jennings’ book last year and consequently despaired at the brown-nosing of the likes of the vile Warner and the executive committee.
If members of the England bid team really cared about the lack of transparency of the bidding process, they would have pulled out long ago, or not even have proposed the bid.
Coming out and complaining about it now just sounds like sour grapes. Would they have have been complaining if they were they won the 2018 tournament via the same process? I think we know the answer…
Plus Andrew Jennings should of course have developed a website, such as Transparency in Sport at http://transparencyinsport.org/
I would assume that Ian Wright has never heard of Play the Game (at http://www.playthegame.org/ ). Searching their website for ‘FIFA’ produces a mere 744 hits.
Great posting Mark – back of the net!
Blimey, meant to include the link to ‘Transparency in Sport’ and clean forgot. Thanks, John.
Mind you, it hasn’t been updated in a while. What’s he been up to? Too busy “shouting at people,” I guess
Truly excellent article that deserves much greater exposure.
I have to agree that while Panoram’s programme was full of interest and fact the guy handled it all in the wrong manner, one that really would get FIFA backs up!!
great article! FOUL is a jaw-dropping book. I’m appalled at the idiotic carping at Andrew Jennings as if he’s done something wrong. He’s risked an awful lot to expose these criminals and should be applauded, not criticised.
Bravo! Great stuff
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I agreew with Des Dougan – great piece Mark!
“Foul” is a great (but extremely disturbing) read. Every library in the country should have a copy.