England Cries Foul Over Awarding of World Cup to Russia

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Michael Probst/AP

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov holds the World Cup trophy beside FIFA president Joseph Blatter

One day on from the desperate disappointment of missing out on hosting a first World Cup since 1966, the anger has barely subsided in England over FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia.

There had been the nagging feeling that the British media’s thorough investigating of alleged bribery within FIFA had been a contributing factor to England only receiving two out of a possible 22 votes (it should have been 24 votes but the Sunday Times‘ piece on corruption allegations resulted in the suspension of two FIFA men). What’s more, one of those votes had come from the Englishman who had a vote, which made the first round exit all the more embarrassing, to say nothing of the near $25 million that had been squandered on the process.

(See pictures from the World Cup.)

But if it was a nagging feeling on Thursday, that had turned into almost outright confirmation Friday after a senior government source in the U.K. told the BBC that at least five members had “personally assured” Prince William and David Beckham they would vote for the England bid, only to place their votes elsewhere. This source said Concacaf president Jack Warner and general secretary, the American Chuck Blazer, were among the executives who had given these promises. Considering that England (as well as the Spain-Portugal bid) had scored higher than Russia when it came to FIFA’s evaluation report, it does seem a puzzle. Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, who knows a thing or two about world soccer, called it a decision from the “middle ages.”

Indeed, Japan’s FIFA executive committee member, Junji Ogura (who may have been the only other English vote), attributed the abject failure to the fact that, “I think there was a big influence from the BBC and the Sunday Times. These reports possibly influenced people. It made damage for some people.” England 2018 bid chief executive Andy Anson went even further, alleging that he had been told that FIFA President Sepp Blatter warned voters of the “evil of the media” just before the vote. “I was told by someone who was in the room that that’s the last thing they were told by Sepp Blatter,” he said. “There was a final sum-up before they voted and I think it was at the beginning of that. That’s not helpful to our cause.” And Anson doesn’t even think England should try again until FIFA reforms its voting process.

(See pictures of David Beckham.)

In any case, the World Cup can’t come to English shores until 2030 (2026 will be going to a non-European country) and while it would be poignant for the 100 year anniversary of the World Cup to be held in the country that invented the game, FIFA may well be swayed by the prospect of “new lands” and yet again look elsewhere.