As England Loses World Cup Bid, BBC Criticized for Airing Anti-FIFA Documentary

The U.K. pubcaster defends the decision, saying, "Delaying the program until after the bid was not an option once it became clear that the winning nations might have been chosen by officials with a proven track record of corruption."

 

LONDON -- The BBC is taking heat for its decision to run a documentary accusing football's governing body FIFA of "systematic corruption."

The move has lead to some commentators and FIFA members blaming media influence for the fact that Britain's bid to host the 2018 World Cup ended Thursday night in humiliating defeat.

The pubcaster has defended its decision, saying that its Panorama current affairs program -- which was aired three days before the vote -- had uncovered information suggesting that current FIFA executives had a history of taking bribes, and that those very executives were among those who voted Thursday night on the outcome of the host nation for the 2018 and 2022 games.

"The [Panorama] program is in the public interest and shows that some FIFA executives involved in making decisions about the 2018 bid have a history of taking bribes -- and that FIFA has consistently failed to act," a spokesman for BBC News said.

"Delaying the program until after the bid was not an option once it became clear that the winning nations might have been chosen by officials with a proven track record of corruption. The program has uncovered new evidence linking current, long-serving members of the FIFA executive committee with systemic corruption."

The London Sunday Times leveled similar corruption charges against FIFA a few weeks ago, and the combined effect of hostile media coverage is thought to have resulted in England's failure to host the games. In the event, England managed to secure just two of the 22 votes from the FIFA committee on Thursday night, despite hoping to have one of the winning bids fronted by Prince William, David Beckham and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Some FIFA members have said the British media were partly responsible for the outcome.

"I thought England was a very strong candidate," said Junji Ogura, FIFA's Japanese representative told the BBC.

"Their presentation was one of the best presentations. But I think there was a big influence from the BBC and the Sunday Times. These reports possibly influenced people," he added.

England's bid chief executive Andy Anson said he had been told that FIFA's controversial president Sepp Blatter reminded members of the executive committee about the "evil of the media" just before the vote.

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