Last Tuesday, the England World Cup bid team wrote a letter to each of the 22 FIFA Committee members, declaring their “support and solidarity” regarding corruption allegations emanating from the Sunday Times ‘sting’ operation.
A ‘sting’ that resulted in the suspension of Executive Committee members Amos Adamu and Reynold Temarri, due to corruption.
On Monday, the BBC aired “Panorama: FIFA’s Dirty Secret”, where Andrew Jennings presented fresh allegations of substantial bribes, secretive payments and corruptive practises involving Executive Committee members Jack Warner, Isse Hayatou and Ricardo Terra Teixera.
On Tuesday, the English bid team accompanied by David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham flew to Zurich, the Home of FIFA, for a three day courting period with Executive Committee members. Their appearance was to implicitly reject the corruption claims, but to no avail, as Russia got the vote.
This is a defeat more costly than the £15 million invested. It is an unsuccessful bid accompanied by the sacrifice of an assumed, collective integrity on England’s bid team.
Football exists within a behavioural approval spectrum of its own design. Star players are granted social status that fortunes them with the ability to transcend cultural understanding of acceptance. Public approval is as fickle within football as it is any sport, but it is defined during public displays on freshly cut grass in 90 minute spurts accompanied by colour commentary.
The Premier League is heaving with players showcased as idols, whose names have become synonymous with usually sleazy, occasionally criminal, actions on the midnight high streets of the cities they come to embody. Yet their levels of moral persecution largely conform with their on-field success. Their personal indiscretions are pardoned by impressive performances. Their public vindication takes the form of “tuts” and eye rolls. Their redemption comes in the wins and loss columns of the Premiership table.
It is seen as virtuous if a Premiership player is able to rise above assault charges and put in a performance that is depicted as character defining. Off-field incidents are seen as extraneous. It is football that has propelled them to the lofty positions they occupy, and it is football alone that shall protect this. These players relish the opportunity to drown out the sounds of allegations regarding social misconduct with victory. Every goal scored, man of the match award collected and position in the table climbed affords them more leeway to ignore conventional social values.
However, for those on the England bid team, who whored out their resources and charms in exchange for the favours of the champions of corrupt enterprise that sit on the FIFA Executive Committee, opportunities for redemption will not be so readily available.
The bid attempt presented three of England’s most visible global ambassadors, Beckham, Cameron and William, as an unscrupulous group united by their morally distorting ambitions. For three days they curtsied to every suit and tie, laughed at every joke and knocked desperately on every hotel room door in the pursuit of a suitably powerfully ear to whisper promises into.
The bid team had been jumping as high and as long as men like Jack Warner ordered. In the end they were reduced to beggars, who were teased out of their dignity. They dismissed the work of the English media in uncovering and displaying some of the corruptive practises that appear deeply ingrained in the cultural framework of football’s commanding organisation. By doing so they leapt head first into an environment of forked tongues and deceit, without possessing the protection of the moral high ground.
Allegations of corruption are bound to accompany the news that Russia and Qatar won the 2018 and 2022 bids respectably. Yet England will be perceived as a country unable, but willing, to succumb to the demands of the corrupt.
This whole process will accelerate the diplomatic learning process of Beckham, who will have become more familiar with the frailty of words spoken behind closed doors with crossed fingers. For Prince William, it’s back to picking floral arrangements and preparing seating plans for the big day. Cameron will return to the day job, unable to offer the disgruntled and mobilising masses the appeasing words of “I brought football home”. None of these men have a Match of the Day highlight clip to diminish the fact that they carry the burden of a self inflicted shame.
Next Saturday, Newcastle’s Andy Carroll will have the opportunity to make the recent assault charges and allegations of drug use an irrelevant nuisance that only serves to distract from his outstanding start to the season, as Newcastle face Liverpool. For the members of the English World Cup bid returning from Zurich, their Saturday may never come.