PtG Article 29.11.2010

Controversial BBC documentary on FIFA corruption airs tonight – three days before the World Cup election

Thursday December 2nd is the day when FIFA’s recently amputated Executive Committee will cast their votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and the nine bidding Committees and the rest of the world will find out who will win the honour of hosting the two tournaments.

Tonight, three days before the election, the BBC documentary "FIFA's Dirty Secrets" will put the spotlight on FIFA corruption.

Ordinarily, the elections for the World Cup hosts get a lot of media attention, but this year undercover journalist investigations, corruption allegations, vote-selling, accusations of bid collusion, emergency meetings and exclusions of two of the voting FIFA executives have turned the election into quite the drama.

In late October, the British newspaper The Sunday Times published a video of two FIFA Executive Committee members, Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii, offering the newspaper’s undercover journalists, posing as lobbyists for the USA bid, their votes in exchange for cash. FIFA’s Ethics Committee put a provisional ban on the two Executives and after a further investigation, the Ethics Committee decided to ban the two for 3 years and 1 year, respectively, along with four other FIFA officials.

Sensationalistic and unpatriotic

One might think that exposing and weeding out corruption in FIFA would be a good thing, but that has not been the view of the English bid Committee. Instead, they publicly stated that they feared the matter had seriously hurt the English bid and sent a letter to FIFA trying to distance themselves from the Sunday Times investigation.

FIFA was not particularly grateful for the exposure of the corrupt officials, either. A number of FIFA Executive Committee members, the Chairman of the Executive Committee, Claudio Sulser, and even FIFA President Sepp Blatter have expressed resentment towards the scrutiny of the UK media, and on the press conference following the Ethics Committee investigation, Sulser berated the Sunday Times for the way they conducted their investigation and accused them of being sensationalist and twisting the facts in order to sell more newspapers.

So when the BBC published their plans to air a Panorama documentary on corruption in FIFA only three days before the December 2nd election, both the English Bid Committee and even senior figures in the British Government were outraged.

According to the Telegraph, the British Government, while making no official request, expressed the hope that the BBC would reconsider the decision to air the Panorama documentary before the election. They argued that the programme would not uncover any fresh evidence of corruption and would only antagonise potential England supporters in the Executive Committee.

The English bid committee even went so far as to call the BBC “unpatriotic” and accusing the network of undermining England’s attempts to stage the tournament, writes Sport Business.

FIFA’s dirty secrets

Despite protests and accusations of intentionally damaging England’s bid, the BBC will tonight air the controversial and very well-publicised Panorama documentary “FIFA’s dirty secrets”.

According to the BBC, reporter Andrew Jennings will in the programme “expose new evidence of bribery, and accuse some executives of taking kickbacks”. “He also uncovers the secret agreements that could guarantee FIFA a financial bonanza if England hosts the World Cup”, writes the BBC.The Panorama documentary will air tonight at 20.30 CET on BBC One. For more information go to the BBC Panorama website

Play the Game has commented on the FIFA corruption case in several different media (external links):