Fifa vice-president Jack Warner branded the BBC “unpatriotic” for deciding to screen an investigation into the football governing body so close to the vote on 3 December which would decide the host of the 2018 World Cup.
Regardless of what the sports and football world might think of Mr Warner, we have to question the thinking and rational for not just the BBC’s Panorama programme, which was screened last night, but the Sunday Times expose a few weeks back. These two media outlets claimed that their investigations were in the ‘public interest’, but the timing of their broadcast couldn’t have been anything other than fatal. Unpatriotic, as Mr Warner said might not be that wide of the mark.
Since news broke of what these two outlets were doing the Football Association has been scrambling to still be in with a chance to host the 2018 World Cup. It’s pushed forward its power players to rally the nation into showing strength in unity. England’s World Cup 2018 bid international president David Dein called for the nation and by default the media, to get behind the bid. Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William will both be in Zurich on Thursday supporting the bid. But this might just be the public face for a bid that is actually intended to change Fifa rather than secure the World Cup.
I am not for one minute arguing for investigative journalism to be gagged. Nor am I condoning the culture of favour that exists within Fifa, an organisation that promotes Fair Play on the pitch, but ignores it in the boardroom. Let’s be honest, are these investigations really in the public interest, this being common well-being? Such a claim is more of a catch-all.
There are three sides to every story – two sides and the truth.
The big question is about the communications expertise that exists within England’s bid. Did England’s bid team have the necessary power to work with the media? Was it able to influence the timing of such and much needed investigation? Could the media’s work help in England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup? Or did England just know that it didn’t stand a chance, which is why it embarked on a campaign to reform Fifa.
We will be anticipating with anguish the results of Fifa’s Executive Committee’s vote on Thursday. The bid’s Facebook page has support from people from over 170 countries!