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Transparent Cameron

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After eighteen months of memoir-writing in his £25,000 shepherd’s hut, interrupted now and then by lucrative international speaking engagements on the implications of the political mess that he made, David Cameron yesterday returned to a British podium for the first time since the morning of 24 June 2016 to attack three easy targets: Trump, Putin and Fifa. In a lecture to Transparency International, he looked ahead to next year’s World Cup in Russia, and back to the bidding process that took place in 2010. ‘President Putin actually boycotted the whole thing because he said it was riddled with corruption,’ the Guardian reports Cameron as having said. ‘He was right – it was.’

‘I am sure [Putin] wasn’t completely surprised when Russia actually won the bid,’ Cameron went on. ‘You couldn’t make it up. In the years since, 10 of the 22 members of that Fifa executive committee were indicted or punished.’

‘Even now, little detail is known,’ David Conn writes of Russia’s bid in The Fall of the House of Fifa. A foundation linked to Roman Abramovich destroyed the computers used by the bid committee, which meant they were only able to hand over a limited number of documents to the 2014 Garcia Report into Fifa corruption. Rather more is known about what another bid for the same World Cup got up to in the months preceding the fateful announcement of 2 December 2010, that the next two tournaments would be hosted by Russia and Qatar. England 2018 was publicly fronted by three men ‘cringingly dubbed the “three lions”’: Prince William, David Beckham and David Cameron.

Conn lists the gifts and favours with which the English FA tried to woo the votes controlled by one of Fifa’s vice-presidents, the Trinidadian Jack Warner: agreeing to host a training camp for Trinidad and Tobago’s under-20 team; sponsoring a gala dinner at the annual congress of the Caribbean Football Union (costing $55,000); sending Beckham to Trinidad to launch a six-day football festival; giving a Mulberry handbag to Warner’s wife. (All of which admittedly pales beside the $1.2 million that Warner – who was suspended from Fifa in 2011 and resigned in disgrace soon afterwards – was allegedly paid by a Qatari businessman shortly after Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup.)

Another corrupt Fifa executive, Worawi Makudi, was courted with ‘the prospect of the England team playing a friendly against Thailand’, with ‘a more generous than usual deal over the TV rights for the match’.

A later investigation into the bidding process by Fifa’s ethics committee concluded: ‘With regard to at least two … [Fifa Executive] Committee members, England 2018 accommodated, or at least attempted to satisfy, the[ir] improper requests … thereby jeopardising the integrity of the bidding process.’

And, most damning of all in the context of, well, international transparency, there’s the following episode:

Just two days before the [2010] vote, true rottenness in the heart of Fifa was alleged with more conviction than ever before, in a programme researched and presented for the BBC’s Panorama by Andrew Jennings. It was the culmination of years investigating Fifa … Yet before the vote, the FA had tried to have the Panorama programme pulled, writing an obsequious letter to the executive committee members themselves, to distance the FA and bid from the BBC’s allegations … ‘It has been a difficult time for Fifa and as a member of the football family we naturally feel solidarity with you and your colleagues … We hope England’s bid will not be judged negatively due to the activities of individual media organisations.’

On the night the programme aired, a statement from England 2018 described Panorama’s allegations as ‘an embarrassment to the BBC’.


  1. Camus says:

    It’s the game that counts… Most of the people who watch games don’t care about the corruption. They want to see an exciting game. They know that in Europe the professionalsl earn ludicrous sums to spend on tattoos and Poker and that doesn’t bother them either. Most sports at an international level live on their ratings for income and corruption just doesn’t enter into the equation.

  2. piffin says:

    Through-the-looking-glass stuff. Eye-watering sums paid in order to hear somebody condemn others for exactly the corrupt practices they’re well known to have engaged in themselves.

    But David Cameron’s crude efforts at bribing Fifa pale beside the three things for which he will always be damned: forcing Britain’s poor and disabled to atone for the sins of super-rich bankers; turning Libya into a Mad-Max dystopia, thus setting in motion a biblical refugee crisis; and being more responsible than any individual for the UK leaving the world’s largest single market.

    What sort of mentality prevails in the boardrooms of organisations that agree to pay seven-figure sums to hear this man’s wisdom?

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