London Evening Standard

England should not bid for another World Cup until there are major changes at FIFA, says Hugh Robertson, the sports minister during the FA’s failed attempt to host the 2018 finals.

World football’s governing body is in turmoil following the arrests last month of 14 officials and executives, including seven high-powered FIFA members in Zurich, as part of a £100million corruption probe by the FBI.

Wrongdoing has been emphatically denied by Russia and Qatar, which won the 2018 and 2022 bids. Amid the chaos, Sepp Blatter, who has not been implicated in the scandal, was re-elected FIFA president only to step down five days later.

Robertson believes the organisation needs a huge overhaul.

“We should not host the World Cup, or any FIFA tournament until the organisation is successfully reformed,” he said.

“We need a properly reformed, transparent FIFA conforming to modern corporate governance standards.

“If the price to be paid is Britain loses its special privileges then it’s a price worth paying.”

One of the most significant privileges is always having a British vice-president on the FIFA executive which, as already reported by Standard Sport, is under threat from Blatter as he looks to slim down the  24-man committee.

It was in 2010 that the executive voted to award the finals to Russia and Qatar.

Most of the allegations surrounding the bidding have centred on the 2022 finals but Robertson says: “If corruption is proved in 2022 it must have happened in 2018 as well because that would have been the factual result of the decision to link the two bids with the two decisions taken at  the same time.

“It is inconceivable that if corruption is proved it could have happened in just one bid.”

However, what Robertson is sure is that England’s 2018 bid does not have anything to worry about even if the FBI, as part of the wider ranging American Justice department’s investigation into FIFA, come calling. Robertson says: “I would be quite surprised if the FBI did not want to speak to the FA. I have absolutely no reason to believe the FA did anything illegal in terms of payments or any of the other things that were going on.

“Certainly the prospect of England playing friendlies in key target nations was discussed but there was a very clear dividing line between that and any of the murkier side that has now been associated with the other bids.”

However, Robertson believes FIFA are not the only organisation in need of reform.

While he was sports minister, Robertson told Standard Sport the governance arrangements around the FA Board were “so poor as to be a disgrace”. He says now: “I believe that still. The FA need to remember their own corporate governance is well behind where it needs to be.”


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