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Irresponsible Newspapers and Corruption in FIFA

The Mail on Sunday has faced a huge backlash in recent days over its decision to publish the allegations of former head of the FA and key member of the 2018 World Cup bid, Lord Triesman. Quite rightly so in my opinion. The press in general are beginning to come under pressure from fans, who are sick of them constantly undermining the national team, simply to sell copies of their newspapers. Admittedly, newspaper editors’ primary mandate is the success of their newspaper, and so they will claim that they are simply acting in their best interests. And maybe they are. But this does not quell the growing feeling that they should take some responsibility for their actions.

Whilst it is not clear yet, the actions of the Mail on Sunday may have dealt a fatal blow to England’s hopes of hosting the World Cup in 2018. The crushing disappointment to millions of fans nationwide, simply for the success of increasing their sales by a couple of thousand copies on one single Sunday. Indeed, it may backfire with a growing number of fans talking of boycotting the paper as a result of their actions.

With the World Cup itself starting in just over 3 weeks time, the press seem to be going into overload in trying to target and undermine England’s chances. This year alone, there has been the exposure of the John Terry affair, the completely irrelevant criticisms of the Capello Index, and now this sting operation on the chairman of the FA. The England captain, the England coach and the chairman of the FA in less than six months – will they be targeting Wayne Rooney next? What Lord Triesman said was not illegal, it was not libellous – it was a simple comment made in private to a person that he regarded as a friend. If every private remark were to be published as a truth, the world would collapse into chaos within hours. Yes, it was not a smart thing to have said, but surely a responsible press would have got in touch with him, told him about what they had, and told him to be more careful in the future.

This has been a situation where somebody in a position of trust with Lord Triesman has been recruited, sends her to meet him with a tape recorder in her bag, simply to induce him into saying something that they can then publish on the front page of their newspaper. For me, this is a hideous way of operating and obtaining a story.

The other interesting thing to note is that, despite all of what has been happening, Lord Triesman has not withdrawn his allegation. That seems to have been swept under the carpet with all the attempted mending bridges that has been going on. Head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, has called the FIFA Ethics Committee to investigate this matter. However, they are investigating whether England has broken the regulations over bidding for the World Cup. There has been no investigation either by FIFA, or by anybody in Moscow or Madrid, over whether there is any truth behind these allegations.

Chances are, there is no truth behind what Lord Triesman has claimed. But what if there was, even if only an ounce of truth? It has not been the first rumour concerning corruption that has surrounded FIFA in recent times. And conveniently, these have been hidden away as well. Lord Triesman claimed earlier in the year that one FIFA executive committee member requested an honorary knighthood in exchange for a vote in the ballot. If there is any truth to this, surely this is a form of corruption? And yet FIFA have not even asked Lord Triesman for the name of the individual involved, let alone launch any form of investigation.

Last year, the British FIFA vice-president, John McBeth, was forced to resign after he accused CONCACAF President and FIFA executive committee member, Jack Warner, of corruption. Rather than launch any form of investigation, Jack Warner accused McBeth of racism, and FIFA forced him to resign his commission.

Now, I am not for a moment suggesting that there is any truth to the accusations made by Lord Triesman over the agreement between Spain and Russia. However, can we take the risk that there could be something behind the rumours. Often there is no smoke without fire. And FIFA hardly have a strong prior record on investigating allegations of corruption. So whilst it was irresponsible by Lord Triesman to have made these comments, they are surely worthy of at least a cursory glance by the Ethics Committee.

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