England 2018 fight for FIFA favour

05 November 2010 12:00

The leaders of England's bid for the 2018 World Cup have launched a last-ditch effort to prevent FIFA from turning against their campaign.

England 2018 chiefs have visited BBC director-general Mark Thompson to express fears that a Panorama investigation into FIFA could fatally harm their World Cup bid.

Bid leaders already admit that the recent Sunday Times investigation into FIFA members has caused "significant damage" to their campaign for 2018 and are worried that the Panorama programme, due to screened on November 29, will intensify the backlash against them.

Although England 2018 refused to confirm the visit, it is understood bid chief executive Andy Anson visited Thompson this week to detail the likely implications of the Panorama investigation being screened but was told the programme could not be blocked.

A number of FIFA executive committee members were confronted by Panorama investigators last week in Zurich, causing annoyance among the world governing body's top brass.

FIFA have suspended two of their executive committee members, Nigeria's Amos Adamu and Tahiti's Reynald Temarii, pending an ethics committee hearing after allegations in the Sunday Times that they asked for money for projects in return for World Cup votes. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Evidence of a possible backlash by FIFA members was revealed this week when Mohamed Bin Hammam, the president of the Asian confederation and one of the 24-man executive committee who will vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts, condemned the Sunday Times investigation as "unethical".

A senior England 2018 source said: "This has significantly damaged England's bid because the FIFA executive committee feel they are being targeted by the English media."

England 2018's strategy in the remaining weeks is to try to persuade FIFA members that they should not be held responsible for the media. England also remain hopeful that their bid will be judged the strongest when the FIFA technical inspectors' report into the bids comes out later this month.

FIFA's ethics committee are also investigating separate allegations that Qatar's 2022 bid has colluded with the Spain/Portugal 2018 bid, something forbidden by bidding regulations.

Source: PA