How do we stop the rot in world football?
Fifa stinks, but England has nothing to be proud of either, having kept quiet about alleged bribes until now
The allegations of bribery and corruption at the top of Fifa, the governing body empowered to decide which nations should host the World Cup, have left even hardened football correspondents reeling.
Lord Triesman, the former FA chairman who led England's doomed bid for the 2018 Cup, told a Commons select committee yesterday of Fifa executive members demanding cash and, in one case, a knighthood, to look favourably at our bid.
At the same hearing, the Sunday Times presented evidence to suggest Qatar paid millions to two Fifa executive members to help secure their surprisingly successful bid for the 2022 Cup.
All the allegations have been strenously denied by the relevant parties. But as Martin Samuel writes in the Daily Mail, "it stinks" - not least because Triesman and others never said anything at the time.
"Fifa stink, but England's bid stinks, too," writes Samuel. "What men were these that knew this behaviour was going on, yet said nothing? It is obvious: we hoped there might be something in it for us, if we were good little boys and did as we were told."
Samuel argues it was disingenuous of the England bid team to blame the British media for alienating the Fifa decision-makers with last year's reports of bribery and corruption - "when in private they knew all along that the governing body was peopled by crooks, and were equally convinced the other countries could not be trusted".
The Mail man concludes: "We had our chance to be football's honest brokers very early on, and we chose instead to lie down with thieves."
Richard Williams in the Guardian questions England's attitude, too, asking why we should be surprised that Paraguay's Mr Football, Nicolás Leoz, would ask for a knighthood in exchange for his vote for the 2018 World Cup.
"To Leoz, it must have seemed a reasonable enough request," writes Williams. "That, he thought, was the way England worked. And who could blame him, since he must have known that he was talking to a beneficiary of a system [Triesman] by which honours are handed out sometimes for public service, sometimes for campaign contributions.
"It was the job of Lord Triesman, part of a delegation including a royal prince and a new prime minister who created more than 100 new peers in his first year in office, to declare with a straight face that this is not the way we go about things in the UK.
"According to Triesman, Leoz listened to the rebuff, then 'shrugged his shoulders and walked away'. He may or may not have believed what he had been told."
So, how does Fifa ride this storm, and what if anything can England do to help clean up world football?
The BBC's sports editor David Bond says the most significant allegations presented yesterday came in the new evidence handed in by the Sunday Times which claimed that two Fifa executives - Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast - were paid $1.5m for supporting Qatar.
"To put all this into context," writes Bond, "eight members of the Fifa executive committee at around the time of the vote have now been accused of or found guilty of corruption or breaking Fifa's ethics code. This is a seminal moment for Fifa."
Fifa president Sepp Blatter has said in the past his body would act immediately if presented with any evidence of wrongdoing.
"Blatter is bidding for a fourth term as president in three weeks," says Bond. "And while he has not been accused of any wrongdoing, all these claims have come on his watch. Unless he acts swiftly and decisively, Fifa may soon not have a reputation left to protect."
In the view of the Times, there is only one option for the English FA - Triesman must confront Fifa directly with the allegations even if he believes they will 'fall on deaf ears' and whatever the cost to England's hopes of holding a World Cup in the future.
"What this [episode] tells sports fans is that a culture of tolerating corruption has permeated one of the most important international sporting bodies, and that even the honest have had too much at stake to insist on its eradication," thunders the Times in an editorial.
"This must end, at least as far as Britain is concerned, right now. Even if the home nations host no other shindig this millennium, we should lead in confronting the betrayal of sporting ideals that allowing such practices represents. Someone has to stop this and it might as well be us." ·
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