Fifa row has “harmed” England 2018 bid

November 5, 2010

England’s 2018 World Cup bid has been “significantly harmed” by a newspaper investigation into the bidding process, says a key member of the campaign team.

A member of the Fifa executive committee previously claimed there would be no backlash against England.

But it now seems the Sunday Times probe into two members of the committee has left England with a mountain to climb ahead of the vote on 2 December.

“It has significantly harmed England’s bid,” a senior member told BBC Sport.

With four weeks to go to the decision, England’s bid team has not given up all hope of turning the situation around.

But senior sources say that the prospect of any future media investigations into the conduct of Fifa officials – including a potential Panorama programme on the BBC – could be fatal for their chances.

One member of the bid team told the BBC: “The question is: can we recover from this? Fifa members feel they are being persecuted by the British media.

“It isn’t dead and the next two or three weeks will be delicate but England’s bid has been damaged and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to repair that damage.”

One move being considered by England’s bid is to ask all the editors of the national newspapers and broadcasters to write to Fifa declaring their support for the 2018 bid.

The Fifa president Sepp Blatter signalled the start of a backlash against the British media last Friday when he said: “One can ask whether such an action is appropriate, trying to set traps for people. It is a deeply rooted problem [with the English media].

“Who is benefitting from this situation and who is being harmed, we are asking ourselves why did it happen and why did it happen specifically by English journalists? We are looking at that.”

And the head of the Asian Football Confederation, Mohamed Bin Hammam, has used his blog to attack the British media. He wrote: “Is it ethical to use unethical methods to protect the ethic? How will we clean dirty laundry by using dirty water?”