A likely loser but principles must be kept
Lie down with dogs and you will get up with fleas.
English football's bid to return the World Cup to these shores for the first time since 1966 already looks sunk, if the leaks of who is voting for who are to be believed. Even before the BBC broadcast their Panorama special on the corruption that they believe so riddles football's governing body FIFA, England's 2018 bid was heading for failure.
To miss out, and postpone the return of the World Cup finals until 2030 at the earliest will be a bitter disappointment to many, especially those who have worked tirelessly in its pursuit. The BBC will likely be painted as the supplier of the knife that killed off the bid but it may also have done much to soothe the pain of probable defeat.
To have won the favour of a group of delegates which, among its 24 men already contains two banned, three under heavy suspicion, and another accused of serial ticket-touting? Surely that would register as a hollow victory, and would open up question as to how it was achieved. Possessing the best technical bid, as it is suggested England do, was never going to be enough.
Following the suspensions of a pair of delegates in Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii after the Sunday Times accused them of accepting bribes, another three more stand accused of being corrupt. Journalist Andrew Jennings, long the bete noir of the governing body's operatives, has now secured what he suggests is compelling evidence that Ricardo Teixeira, head of the Brazilian Football Confederation, CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz and FIFA vice-president Issa Hayatou of Cameroon accepted bribes from 1989 to 1999 from Swiss marketing company ISL.
Jack Warner, courted by the Football Association when it sent a David Beckham-led England to a pointless friendly with Trinidad and Tobago in the height of the summer of 2008, is said to hold the key to a crucial block of votes but was also accused by Jennings of involvement in ticket-touting, and not for the first time either. Monday's newspapers also saw Warner accused by T&T players of breaking promises about their payments for Germany 2006. "He's a very powerful FIFA vice-president," ESPN's own Shaka Hislop told the Guardian. "You have to woo these officials if you want to host this World Cup. It's a necessary evil."
That makes six of the 24 original delegates - headed of course by president Sepp Blatter, no stranger to allegations himself - open to accusation. It seems to secure approval from such a group, you may have to be prepared to swim with sharks. The current system of voting for 2018 and 2022, a dual bidding process which even Blatter has said is flawed, has allowed for a horse-trading and double-dealing that England's campaign has been caught short by. Their naivety and perceived arrogance has counted against them, say some. Others would suggest they have not played the correct game - a corrupt game - to win over those who hold the key to success.
The makers of the programme have been accused by England 2018 head Andy Anson of being "unpatriotic" and to have broadcast it after the process was completed would be seen by many as being far more prudent, yet the BBC may just have provided the comfort of a dodged bullet.
South Africa 2010 may have been hailed as a success for its host country, and there was deserved praise for the people of that country for the generous welcome they provided the football world. However, it came at a price, with FIFA able to hive off their profits without being taxed by the South African government, while a jealous guarding of pet endorsements and sponsorships prevented small enterprise, which serve the lower tranches of society, from gaining from their country's hosting of the greatest show on earth. We also await signs of a genuine South African legacy, and they are not yet forthcoming.
Jennings' programme exposed the demands that FIFA puts on a host country, with the suspension of visas, protection of sponsors and a request to change labour laws, all in the interests of protecting the truckloads of lucre heading in the direction of FIFA's Swiss coffers. "Indefensible," a Labour peer told Jennings, and it was difficult to disagree.
Russia now looks the most favoured outcome for 2018, and it is heavily speculated that one of its attractions to FIFA is a lack of a free press which may seek to expose the machinations of the governing body. Indeed, there would seem to be few more dangerous places to operate than Russia for a journalist in the modern world. In the instance of a failed bid, then the BBC and UK government can hold their heads up and state that they did not stoop to censorship in the interests of political expediency.
Disappointment will likely be the order of the day when the verdict arrives on Thursday but if a successful bid comes at such prices then England has to be best off out of it.