Peter Young
18 April 1999
England Football Online
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Comment: England's World Cup 2006 Bid

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Venality, betrayal and dishonour at Lancaster Gate

England fans ought not to equate support for the England team or English football in general with support for The Football Association's World Cup 2006 bid.

There can be little doubt that England would do a better job of staging the World Cup 2006 finals than any of the other nations bidding to host them. But that cannot be the determinative factor in deciding whose bid succeeds. If it were, the same few countries would host the finals every four years, and it would be a World Cup in name only. Considerations of fairness must come into play, too.  Africa and Oceania are the only two football confederations that have yet to win the right to host the finals. Furthermore, by 2006 every confederation but Africa and Oceania will have hosted the finals more recently than South America, which last staged them in 1978. Once equity is put into the balance and provided all financial and logistical requirements are satisfied, it is clear that at least Africa and South America have claims to the 2006 finals that are superior to Europe's.

Whatever the fortunes of the national team on the pitch, the authorities who govern the game in England long had a reputation throughout the footballing world for fair play and decency, for conducting themselves honourably and for consistently making the interests of the game paramount in their words and deeds. That is why England continues to exercise an extraordinary influence on the game's worldwide governance. The rest of the world may not always have liked England, but they always respected England and accorded it a position and influence in the game commensurate with that respect.

The Football Association's World Cup 2006 campaign has done immeasurable damage to this reputation.  Its 2006 bid has been based on a systematic course of betrayal, deceit, disloyalty, treachery, trickery, bribery and other despicable behaviour. The rest of the world has seen the F.A. acting dishonourably in its own-self interest, and the consequence has been a loss of respect and a corollary loss of influence. Already there are proposals abroad to remove the special positions of influence on the international governing bodies that England and the other home countries have long been granted in recognition of their founding role in the game.

When English football was desperately seeking to regain credibility on the international stage in the wake of the post-Heysel ban from European club competition, the F.A. promised to support Germany's World Cup 2006 bid in exchange for Germany's support for England's bid for the 1996 European Championship.  Germany delivered in full, and England won the right to host Euro '96. But then the F.A. waffled on its agreement.  Immediately following Euro '96's success, the F.A. decided it wanted to host World Cup 2006 itself.

At first the F.A. falsely claimed it had never promised Germany its support for the 2006 finals. Then, when this failed to pass scrutiny, it falsely claimed the F.A. chairman at the time of the agreement, the venerable Sir Bert Millichip, who had long and faithfully served English football, had been senile, fell asleep during the crucial meeting and generally didn't know what he was doing anyway.  Finally, after revelation of attempts to buy votes and a wholesale house-cleaning that has brought in new, albeit temporary, leadership, the F.A. claims it's too late to do anything about the broken agreement and its other appalling conduct because the World Cup bid now belongs to the whole country and not just to the F.A.

This latest rationalization is, of course, sleight-of-tongue calculated to avoid concession that millions have been wasted promoting a bid that from its inception has been based on double-dealing and lying and which has been advanced by bribery and wheeling and dealing befitting common scam artists.  Far more costly, however, has been the loss of worldwide respect and influence the F.A.'s World Cup campaign has generated.  The F.A.'s new leadership would do much to restore the worldwide credibility and respect the F.A. has lost were it to abandon this ill-considered venture.

The F.A. has an official website promoting its World Cup 2006 campaign.  If England fans wish to support a thoroughly disreputable campaign that has harmed English football's reputation throughout the world, they may visit this site and register their names in favour of the bid.  But support for England's national team by no means requires support for the bid.

Addenda

Peter Young
4 May 1999.

Deposed F.A. chief executive Graham Kelly writes in his regular column in The Independent (Monday, May 3, 1999):  "The European representatives still maintain that Sir Bert Millichip committed England to backing Germany [in its bid to host World Cup 2006]. He had no reason to oppose his Uefa colleagues before England entered the contest, but there is absolutely no record of where and when such a vital gentleman's agreement was reached."  

Kelly apparently doesn't understand that the entire concept is that gentlemen keep their agreement without requiring production of a formal record of it.  For that reason, gentlemen don't bother to make a formal record of it.  

It is revealing that Kelly considers it noteworthy that Sir Bert had no reason to oppose UEFA's support for Germany before England decided to make its own bid.  Gentlemen don't withdraw from their agreements merely because altered circumstances have changed their own interests.  

The implication of Kelly's position is that a host of UEFA and German football officials are either liars or blundering fools who have made a huge mistake about a matter of tremendous importance to them.  Plainly the collegial days of informal agreement by handshake or consensus are over in the footballing world, and the Football Association may take a large part of the responsibility for this dubious development.

Peter Young
15 December 1999

The Football Association recently trotted out a written statement from former F.A. chairman Sir Bert Millichip in which he denied there had ever been a gentleman's agreement that Germany would be Europe's candidate to host World Cup 2006, and it claims that puts an end to the matter.  

Scepticism is surely justified.  Only the gullible would fail to ask why it has taken some three years for the F.A. to get a statement of denial from Sir Bert and to wonder what pressures and cajolery were brought to bear on him before he finally yielded and agreed to issue the statement.  The F.A. originally claimed Sir Bert had fallen asleep during the UEFA meeting at which the hosting question was discussed and that, in any event, he was senile and didn't know what he was doing.  Now it claims we are to accept the accuracy of his statement of denial issued many years after that meeting took place.  

Why Sir Bert's statement, which directly contradicts the memories of a host of UEFA officials and German officials, should be regarded as putting an end to the matter is beyond comprehension.  Once again the F.A. has demonstrated its duplicity and its disrespect for the intelligence of the worldwide football community.  Moreover, the F.A. has sacrificed both its own reputation and the reputation of English football for the sake of the large amount of money that is at stake--in a word, greed.