Russian bid victory a “stitch up” – British media
England failed to impress the FIFA committee with its bid, despite support from royalty, the Prime Minister and sporting legends.
Just as English football pundits are famed for their jingoistic triumphalism ahead of the national team’s World Cup disappointments, backers of the bid to host the tournament were talking big – before disaster on the global stage.
David Beckham, one of the England’s bid ambassadors to Zurich, was gracious in defeat, but could not hide his disillusionment.
“We can be proud of ourselves, but obviously we’re disappointed. But we send congratulations to the two countries that got 2018 and 2022,” he told the media.
However, the British bulldog spirit was in evidence the morning after the announcement of the winner in rather different ways – most noticeably in the form of provocative, scowling headlines.
“Fixed”, screamed the Sun. “Stitch up”, suggested the Daily Mail. And Russia is to blame, with little about why their own bid, which came last with just two paltry votes, had been sunk.
The English media called FIFA’s decision foul – calling Russia itself a corrupt state which bribed its way to World Cup-hosting victory.
The evidence, though, is quite weak, as British newspapers seized on unsubstantiated rumors in a WikiLeaks cable from a Spaniard’s opinion that Russia is a “mafia state”.
Press articles about the World Cup win almost univeersally mentioned WikiLeaks and vice versa. The paper which postures itself as Britain’s liberal conscience – The Guardian – was especially liberal in its wording.
“The problem is that Putin and Medvedev – Mr Alpha Dog and his poodle – are products and beneficiaries of a thuggish regime. They themselves are thugs. Alpha Dog growls while the poodle simpers; but each has got a sharp bite,” said one of Guardian articles.
“It’s interesting and somewhat unfortunate that in the same week you have Russia winning the World Cup, and also named a mafia state by certain US cable leaks,” said Alex Nice, Russia affairs expert, in an interview to RT. “And this has led some media commentators to triangulate the two and suggest that it’s inappropriate for Russia to host the World Cup in 2018.”
As usual, the British establishment view seemed to be out of touch with the views of its people, as some passersby on the streets of England actually called Russia’s victory “fair” and “deserved”, while atrributing to the media allegations a tendency to a “sensationalist element”.
England’s World Cup bid was mired in chaos and scandal from the beginning. The bid leader resigned early – after groundless claims of Spanish and Russian bid bribery. Corruption allegations against FIFA by the British media led to accusations by the English bid team that their press was “unpatriotic”. But English football insiders say there is nothing sinister in FIFA’s award to Russia.
“I can understand why FIFA have awarded the tournament to Russia, because there’s the sense that it’s taking the tournament to a new region, and FIFA likes to evangelize about football as a game, and win new followers,” said Gavin Hamilton, editor of World Soccer magazine.
The part that the British media played in the lead up to the voting, with its allegations of corruption and bribery inside FIFA, has been conveniently forgotten now that they have found a new scapegoat.
England will not have the chance to host another World Cup for 20 years, and maybe that will give the British press time to look a little closer to home for someone to blame the country’s latest World Cup calamity on.
But with headlines like these, it seems as unlikely as football coming “home” for this generation.