Coming in the wake of the Sunday Times‘ recent cavalcade of dogged exposés, that grand old bastion of British broadcasting, the BBC, have signalled their intent to completely undermine the England 2018 World Cup bid team’s efforts by pressing ahead with the screening of a Panorama investigation into the various foul play and corruption that goes on within FIFA’s corridors of power.
However, the BBC have extended a fairly limp olive branch after incurring England 2018’s escalating ire, suggesting that they may be willing to consider the possibility of mulling over the suggestion of broadcasting the controversial programme on November 15th, rather than pressing ahead with their original plans to go to air days before the FIFA executive committee’s vote takes place in Zurich on December 2nd.
In a last desperate act of reconciliation, England 2018 chief executive Andy Anson visited BBC director general Mark Thompson this week to express fears that the Panorama enquiries could fatally harm their bid.
The corporation is reportedly yet to decide upon a final date but if it chose to broadcast the programme earlier than intended then it may provide the England 2018 bid team with enough time to begin rebuilding some of the bridges that their national media seem intent on blowing to smithereens – however futile a gesture that may prove to be.
After being confronted with their failings on two separate fronts, it is thought that FIFA are now tending to favour the altogether less rambunctious Russian and Spanish/Portuguese bids, although there are still vain hopes that football’s governing body may feel slightly less aggrieved if the BBC reneged on it’s plans to screen the investigation just three days before the World Cup vote takes place.
A spokesman for BBC Panorama confirmed yesterday that the FIFA members embroiled or implicated in their probe have already been approached:
“We have contacted FIFA and individual executive committee members regarding our findings. We are currently awaiting a response.”
Former sports minister Richard Caborn (who is decidedly ‘pro’ England 2018) has also had his five-penneth, imploring the BBC to send all the damning evidence that Panorama have managed to uncover to FIFA’s independent ethics committee immediately for them to process, rather than dramatically waiting to deliver the revelations when the programme is screened on November 29th.
Caborn, who served under ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown as his official World Cup bid ambassador, said:
“If Panorama or any other media have any evidence of any wrongdoing they should immediately refer that to the FIFA ethics committee so that it can be examined by the independent panel.
Whilst I agree that newspapers and television have every right to investigate they should not be used in a selfish way for circulation or viewing figures and damaging the England bid.
The importance of the England bid for ordinary fans is considerable and therefore any evidence should be referred to the new ethics committee immediately.”
There is growing angst amid the England 2018 team that, should Panorama merely echo the Sunday Times‘ findings by redressing what is essentially just the findings of another team of investigative journalists, then their hopes of bringing the World Cup to these fair isles will be, for all intents and purposes, dead in the water.
It would seem that, in his attempt to uphold the lofty principles of editorial independence, stubborn BBC chief Thompson runs the risk of shafting the nation that he is duty-bound to represent.