England’s 2018 World Cup bid team have taken the unusual step of writing at length to each member of the Fifa executive committee, in an attempt to distance the bid from corruption allegations in the British media.
The letter declares England 2018’s “solidarity and support” for Fifa’s response to newspaper allegations; highlights “representations” to the BBC over a forthcoming Panorama programme it fears could fatally undermine England’s chance of winning the bid; and refers to the two executive committee members who have been provisionally suspended as “our friends”.
Bid insiders said the letter, which was delivered by hand over the weekend to the committee members who will decide the destination of the 2018 World Cup on 2 December, represents a calculated risk in aligning England 2018 so closely with a process that is now open to question, leaving it open to criticism from the media.
But England 2018 believes it has no other option. Initial hopes that substantive Sunday Times allegations would not lead to a backlash faded as the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, and other key figures criticised the methods employed by the press.
England 2018 executives hope that by setting out their position so boldly they will be able to shift the focus on to Fifa’s technical reports, which are due to be delivered this week and which are expected to show the English bid in a good light. England 2018’s final presentation in Zurich on 2 December will involve the prime minister, David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William and it will state a case for a commercial bonanza to benefit football around the world.