While an element of chicanery can be expected in any contest with a prize as lucrative as the FIFA World Cup, the bidding process to host the 2018 competition has fallen to new depths of duplicity, subterfuge and deception.
Allegations of corruption – confirmed this morning by FIFA – have dogged the ballot from the off, while collusion among the members has virtually become an open secret.
In less than edifying scenes rival bids from Russia and England trade insults, while delegations from Spain and Qatar pass notes making suspicious claims of victory.
Government leaders – including our own prime minister David Cameron – bow to Sepp Blatter and his cabal as though they were kings, when in fact they are little more than unaccountable bureaucrats.
Executive committee members including Jack Warner – who made a personal profit of over $1 million from reselling 2006 World Cup tickets – take their seats at the top table with little more than a veneer of respectability.
But, even with such a chequered history, the bid from England 2018 has, somewhat remarkably, managed to sink the process a little further into the mire.
In little noticed comments, bid chief Andy Anson has branded the BBC “unpatriotic” following its decision to screen a Panorama investigation into corruption at FIFA ahead of the vote on December 2nd.
“I’m incredibly disappointed with the timing of what the BBC seem to be proposing with Panorama,” he said. “To do it the week before the vote - I don’t think it’s patriotic.”
The comments follow an earlier open letter from England 2018 distancing the bid from the British media.
Anson has moved to silence the critics of FIFA ahead of the bid
But what is Anson afraid of? What would he view as patriotic, and how can exposing the truth hurt the national interest? Would he have the BBC to cancel the programme, leaving FIFA to its opaque machinations?
If the programme is able to shed light on the internal workings of the organisation it should be broadcast.
Or perhaps a mere delay would be more suitable for Anson, with the BBC hiding its findings until after the – possibly tainted – vote? Would the victory be as sweet if widespread collusion were discovered?
Better to have the truth now
England has nothing to fear from a ballot based purely on merit.
Indeed, the England 2018 bid is recognised as among the strongest in the competition, with only political manoeuvring posing any real threat to its success.
FIFA itself has been making veiled threats this morning, with Claudio Sulser, the Swiss chairman of the FIFA ethics committee accusing the Sunday Times – which first broke corruption allegations - of “twisting the truth” and “sensationalism” while simultaneously endorsing its findings.
“I have nothing against investigative journalism, but they should not twist the truth- being a journalist imposes certain responsibilities,” he added.
Clumsy attempts to silence the media – be it from bidders or FIFA - belittle the competition, creating suspicion where there was none.
The BBC is right to broadcast ahead of the vote, with the competition that much stronger for it.