Belfast Telegraph

Humiliated England set to wage war on Fifa

By Sam Wallace

England should not bid for the World Cup again until Fifa change their system, 2018 bid chief Andy Anson said yesterday as English football came to terms with the devastating defeat by Russia.

England secured just two of the 22 Fifa members' votes and were knocked out in the first round while Russia went on to triumph.

Anson revealed that FIFA president Sepp Blatter had spoken to the members of the “evils of the media” just before they voted —and some have blamed BBC Panorama and Sunday Times investigations for a backlash against England.

He also said that countries such as England were hampered by the need to maintain “straight, ethical” standards, with the implications that some rivals were free to exploit grey areas in the bidding process.

Asked if he would advise England to bid again Anson said: “I would say right now don't bother until you know that the process is going to change to allow bids like ours (a chance) to win.

“When you have the best technical bid, fantastic inspection visits, the best economic report and from what people told us the best presentation it's quite hard to stomach that seemed to count for absolutely nothing.

“Having only 22 guys voting gives them too much influence. With so much power it becomes very, very difficult.

“FIFA need to look at it — it makes it very easy for formidable competitors like Russia and Qatar to gain influence.”

He added: “Running two bids together was clearly a huge mistake. Everyone who had a vote and a bid clearly wanted to trade that vote for something that helped them get over the line in that campaign.

“Australia had a very good bid they got one vote, we had a very good bid and we got two, the USA had an unbelievably strong technical bid and got three. Six votes in the first round between those three, there's something not quite right.

“You have to open it up to all member associations and have transparency and open voting so everyone knows who voted for whom. With 22 guys having so much power it becomes very, very difficult.”

Anson said he had been told that Blatter had spoken to members of the “evil of the media” just before the vote.

He said: “I think that was unhelpful — the last thing those guys hear before they go and tick the box is the evil of the media is not helpful and actually inaccurate.

“I was told by someone who was in the room that that's the last thing they were told by Sepp Blatter. There was a final sum-up before they voted and I think it was at the beginning of that. That's not helpful to our cause.”

Anson admitted that the defeat was hard to stomach and he felt let down.

“I still find it hard to understand what happened. I'm not going to beat around the bush — individual members promised to vote for us and didn't clearly,” he said.

“That's difficult to stomach when they have given you assurances.”

Meanwhile, English football's relations with Fifa are in meltdown after the acting chairman of the Football Association declared the world governing body as untrustworthy and the FA prepared to withdraw Fabio Capello's team from their proposed friendly against Thailand in June.

The FA's acting chairman Roger Burden withdrew his candidacy to take the post on a permanent basis with an uncompromising open letter in which he said he was unprepared to deal with Fifa — as FA chairman he would be the governing body's main point of contact with Fifa.

Burden said that in light of England's bid being rated top of Fifa's independent assessment of the economic and technical merits, he “struggled” to understand how they earned just two votes.

He added: “I had applied for the position of chairman. I recognise that an important part of the role is liaison with Fifa, our global governing body. I am not prepared to deal with people whom I cannot trust and I have withdrawn my candidacy.”

In the meantime, the FA is undertaking moves to cancel their proposed end-of-season friendly with Thailand in Bangkok in early June. The game against the Thais had been intended as a means of securing the vote of Worawi Makudi, the Thai ExCo member, who even before Thursday had informed the English bid he was voting for Spain.

Makudi had even approached English 2018 officials to ask whether they would agree to go ahead with the friendly if he did not vote for them.

The English bid had deferred that decision until after the vote, but the scope of their defeat on Thursday convinced them that the game is a non-starter — for fans and players.

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