Yet again the messenger is blamed for the message. Fuelled by that strange English sense of entitlement, the English bidding team have descended to blaming Panorama and the Sunday Times for what their media supporters oddly call their “humiliation”. If FIFA are corrupt and it was the Beeb wot lost it, where’s the humiliation? If humiliation there was, Jim White is right. It lay in the fact that the English spinners swallowed their own propaganda. Another version is at least possible. As Roy Greenslade records in his round-up of press reaction, it was left to the FT’s reporter to write: “Fifa’s choice of giant Russia instead of England was expected and looks logical,” he wrote. No other journalists dared to say that.
Predictably Simon Jenkins makes the fundamentalist case for the media.( although Simon, the whole point about reptiles is that they can’t hold their heads high. See Genesis chap. 1). Ace sports commentator James Lawton declares a moral victory for England (we used to do that all the time for Derry City in the old days). It’s hard to know yet where the vultures are going to land next. I doubt if much will stick to the Beeb any more than it did when Alex Ferguson imposed his sulky boycott on match interviews. Who knows if the corporation would have taken a different tack on the Panorama scheduling had they chosen to enter a bidding war with Sky over premiership rights? While historically it is written in BBC hearts that Panorama has the capacity to bring down the whole corporation, this has never actually happened. And on holding back the Fifa allegations, I cannot quite imagine the conversation between the programme and the management. Think of the headlines later: “Beeb in Fifa blackmail to win the World Cup.” Ironically, Fifa’s decisions will surely depress still further the status and quality of international football and with it, its cash value. Who knows, by 2018, they may be giving the rights away.
Now that FIFA have done their worst, they are surely more vulnerable than they were before 3 o’clock yesterday. Once it was all so easy. In 1954 I think it was, an uncle of mine who was a medical administrator in Belfast happened to be in Zurich for a conference. Although not especially keen on football, he decided to give the then FIFA boss England’s own Stanley Rous a call to see if he could supply a couple of match tickets. – any would do. Rous smilingly obliged.
Should today’s self-selecting oligarchs of FIFA and the IOC be allowed to exist , with their insistence on Zil routes through London’s streets in 2012? Probably not, but can you imagine the UN doing any better?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London