A throwback to an era of Cold War paranoia is the latest wave of conspiracy theories which will still be circulating long after the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 have been relegated to football’s history books.
The latest strand has been sparked by reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is checking “substantial evidence” of outside organisations attempting to hack the email accounts of the United States’ bid for 2022 and – of course – a suggestion that England’s bid may have been affected.
Running in parallel in the background is Frank Lowy’s continued griping about Australia’s exco thrashing at the hands of everyone else in the 2022 bidding; Lowy is being supported by German federation president Theo Zwanziger, possibly out of his own embarrassment that the DFB backed totally the wrong horse (i.e. Australia – whose lone vote in the FIFA exco came from Franz Beckenbauer).
More interesting than the meanderings of grumpy losers is the FBI connection.
Russia invested more effort into winning 2018 than all its rivals – Holland/Belgium, England and Spain/Portugal – put together.
The campaign was dictated, to choose a specific word, from the office of Vladimir Putin and involved every possible lever of state across all aspects of sport, infrastructure, potential development partners, secvurity, political insight and business intelligence.
The Daily Telegraph is reporting that FBI officers have interviewed members of England’s 2018 bid. That inquiry trail goes back to Chuck Blazer’s ‘outing’ of the Carribean conspiracy put together by Jack Warner and Mohamed Bin Hammam during the run-up to the FIFA presidential election – although this was four months after the World Cup ballot.
Warner responded to this about-turn by Blazer – his ally and closest CONCACAF aide for much of the past 20 years – with allegations about Blazer’s finances. These were then reported to have come under review by the US tax authorities while Blazer insisted that everything had always been clear and above board.
This was when talk of an FBI interest first gained currency, so to speak.
Simultaneously, misguided confusion remains from the World Cup vote-rigging reporting by The Sunday Times in the autumn of last year and which led to the suspensions of FIFA exco members Reynald Temarii and Amos Adamu.
ST investigators had purported to be representatives of the US bid in their under-cover, ‘sting’ interviews and discussions.
The newspaper always made it clear, after the running the stories, that its operation had no connection to the real US bid but, in some places, that disowner has not been taken fully on board, casting yet another skein of confusion across the murkiness.
Meanwhile, Putin is now raging at the United States for sceptical reaction and reporting of the outcome of the parliamentary elections in Russia which saw his own party take a battering. The FBI/World Cup stories offer both a distraction and an opportunity to build up that old Cold War, ‘siege mentality’ attitude.
Did Putin and French President Sarkozy, for example, exert personal-cum-state pressure on FIFA exco members to vote for whoever they did?
Was that undue influence?
Then how about England’s presentation being led by the heir to the throne and the Prime Minister?
Many observers perceive satisfied justification from any inquiry into the FIFA fiasco by the United States’ security services; on the other hand, just as many others may consider it with equal suspicion.
By Keir Radnedge