As part of the final preemptive charm offensive before tomorrow’s big ballot, the England 2018 World Cup bid team have sent out their big-hitting (and chintzily named) ‘Three Lions’ out into the conference and media halls of Zurich to deliver one last wave of thick, undulating schmooze to the relevant FIFA Executive Committee (ExCo) members from which they remain hopeful of pilfering potentially decisive votes.
The ruddy-faced pairing of Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron have been giddily circulating amongst representatives from the world’s footballing backwaters in the hope that, by shilling their country’s wares to the umpteenth degree, FIFA’s pseudo-papal patrons will choose jolly old England (rather than Spain/Portugal, Holland/Belgium and a newly Putin-less Russia) to favour-swap with come tomorrow afternoon.
England 2018 have also seen fit to wheel out old ‘rickety balls’ himself, David Beckham, to complete their triumvirate of chief flesh-pressers being, as he is, the country’s most photogenic footballer – sorry Wayne, sorry Rio.
In his role as ambassador, Beckham’s first order of business upon arriving in Switzerland was to meet with FIFA’s presidential dumpling Sepp Blatter to discuss the impact of the BBC‘s ill-timed Panorama exposé – in which key ExCo voter and England 2018 bid affiliate Jack Warner was accused of ‘this’, whilst a clutch of other FIFA members were systematically accused of ‘that’ and ‘the other’.
Thankfully, Beckham was able to confirm that the meeting of minds passed without incident:
“Basically me, the Prime Minister and other members of the team sat down with president Blatter and [Panorama] was one of the topics that we spoke about and something that was cleared away.
What we made clear to him and what he already knows is that if we get the World Cup in 2018 our media are right behind us, our media are so positive towards the sport and towards it growing in our country.
[Blatter] brought it up within the talks and obviously it was not the easiest of things to talk about. He realised that a lot of it was old stuff. A lot of things go on and it is out of our hands.”
This distancing from the undermining actions and ethos of the nation’s media is now thought to be overriding focus of the England 2018 bid team’s late push for validation – with both Prince William and Cameron towing a similar line (or ducking out completely) when faced with questions on the subject of bribery, corruption and collusion.
Beckham is also hopeful that FIFA will renege on the habit of a lifetime and display a little integrity when it comes to voting, admitting that he believes that the ExCo will judge the England 2018 bid on it’s merits – rather than on what the BBC and the Sunday Times have to say about it’s bent-as-nine-bob-note members:
“I think we can trust every one of the members. At the end of the day they are football people.
They are going to want a World Cup in the best country that they think could host the biggest sporting event in the world. Without a doubt we can trust them.”
What can I say? Naivety is a hell of a drug.