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While the recent claims that two members of the Fifa executive committee face corruption charges related to the 2018 World Cup bidding process are disappointing, even more so is the fact that the pair were framed by a British newspaper.
Amos Adamu from Nigeria and Reynald Temarii from Tahiti were caught in a sting organized by The Sunday Times. Reporters from the paper posed as representatives from American companies who wanted to ensure the United States won the bid.
Adamu allegedly requested £500,000 and Temarii allegedly requested a larger £1.5 million in exchange for their votes. Both of the payments were to go into regional sporting projects in the areas they represent – specifically, four artificial football pitches in Nigeria and a sports academy in the Oceania confederation – rather than into their own wallets. Both deny any wrongdoing, and will defend themselves in front of Fifa’s ethics committee for three days from the 15th November.
Frustratingly for all those working on the England bid, who seemed to be edging closer and closer to a London 2012 style victory, inside sources recently contacted the BBC to say that the campaign to bring the World Cup to these shores had been “significantly harmed” as a result of Fifa expressing its anger – perhaps understandably – with the British press.
It would be such a shame for English football if the bid was to be jeopardized as a result of The Sunday Times’ actions. We have the world class stadiums needed to put on an excellent tournament, the country is small enough to travel around over the duration of it, and football flows in the blood of the people who live here. Hosting the event could provide the impetus our national side has needed for a long while to succeed.
While corruption in football must be eradicated at every single level, especially at the highest, the culture amongst some papers in the British media to expose sporting personalities at all costs is something that should be similarly reviled. Many of the most memorable stings of recent times by certain Sunday newspapers have been set up specifically to frame someone as doing something wrong, sometimes with no prior evidence to suggest any wrongdoing. The cynical side of me is convinced this is an example of the press’ desire for English sport to fail so that more papers can be sold, and more columnists can write about ‘what went wrong’.
We have seen this happen time and time again: Sven-Goran Eriksson being forced out after admitting to an undercover reporter that he would quit the job if England won the World Cup in 2006, Wayne Rooney having court injunctions for private indiscretions hanging over his head while playing in South Africa, and the recent dubious John Higgins sting where the snooker champion was approached by undercover reporters in a hotel room in Ukraine and encouraged to throw a frame. He was recently cleared of match fixing, for the record.
In what other country would the media pounce on sporting figures and institutions with such contempt? Newspapers should return to reporting on what has happened on the field of play and exposing wrongdoing when it actually has occurred, rather than creating circumstances in which they can entrap an individual and force dubious accusations on them. Maybe then we will start to win things.
The news that the Premier League are investigating Ian Holloway for making ten changes to his side that faced Aston Villa in midweek is ridiculous. His Blackpool players have been expected to play four games in twelve days. They are not exactly what you would call world-class, and would not be able to keep up with the sort of fitness required to play that many games at this high level in such a short space of time.
Holloway should instead be applauded for giving his fringe players a chance, many of whom are English, as they put in a stellar performance in the first half and lost the match by one goal. All the players are registered with the League and paid for by the Club. He watches them every day in training and knows their strengths, weaknesses, and general ability. Holloway should be free to play who he wants, when he wants. He is right to be disappointed with the Premier League’s stance, even if the threat of resignation would harm Blackpool so much more than it would the Premier League.