|Jack Warner, left, and Sepp Blatter: the key members in FIFA's boys' club|
But, after last night's Panorama investigation into corruption within FIFA, the question is: is all this lavish brown-nosing really in the country's best interests?
The timing of the documentary certainly upset some in the England bid team, calling it "unpatriotic" and "an embarrassment to the BBC". But what the programme did do was highlight the awful corruption that goes on within football's governing body, and single out members, many of whom are integral to England's chances of winning the right to stage the World Cup. Jack Warner, who as mentioned above, was asked to dine at Downing Street last month, was exposed as having brought World Cup tickets back in 2006, and selling them on to Black-market traders for a profit of $1 million. A trick he again tried during this summer's tournament, but subsequently failed to do so. He has also, in the past, asked England to play a friendly in Trinidad and Tobago ( his home country) in exchange for his World Cup vote, something which England actually did back in 2008. And has been seen excepting 'gifts' from David Dein, the England bid liaison officer. Finally, it has also emerged this week that Mr Warner, who also acts as a 'special adviser' to the Trinidad and Tobago FA, failed to pay the Tobagan players any bonuses for reaching the 2006 World Cup, and back-pocketed all the playing staffs sponsorship deals, said to be worth up up £6million. And yet, after all this, he is still courted by our own Prime Minister and considered key to our bid.
Issa Hayatou, one of the three men accused by Panorama last night of excepting bribes from ISL (International Sports and Leisure), is also seen as key to England's bid. As head of Fecafoot, the Cameroonian Football Association, and president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) he controls a serious amount of votes which England have been key to get; paying him personal visits to Cameroon in the process. He is accused of being paid 100,000 French francs by ISL - the Swiss company to which FIFA awarded marketing rights to successive World Cups - and if found guilty will be banished from both FIFA and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) of which he is a member.
This, unfortunately, is what happens when an administrative body mutates into a rampantly commercial animal. No longer mere custodians of the game, they have become deal-makers inflating the price of television contracts and fostering a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately culture. Countries hoping to earn the ultimate honour of staging sport's biggest event after the Olympics are encouraged to engage in a beauty contest which is so constructed to allow favours to be swapped, inducements to be laid out and, if the Sunday Times is correct (they have accused two FIFA committee members - Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii of agreeing to sell their World Cup vote) individual executive committee members to profit at the ballot box.
Of course, hosting a World Cup would give a huge boost to our ailing economy- it is estimated that a World Cup could produce £5billion - it would create thousands of temporary jobs, and would bring an enormous sense of national pride not seen on these shores since Euro 96. But to account for all these things, new stadiums would have to be built in host cities such as Plymouth and Bristol, rail networks would need re-development, thousands of hotels would need to be built to accommodate the 3 million international tourists expected. All things, I would expect, paid for by the taxpayer.
As well as the cost of hosting a World Cup, other implications also need to be considered. Every bidding nation that enters the race to host the tournament has to sign up to FIFA's strict code of 'agreements'. The 8-point plan is FIFA's way of insuring that they make the most amount of money possible out of the tournament. The agreement states that "visa and entry procedures are loosened for the duration of the tournament", "workers' rights are duly abolished", "new laws need to be created to protect sponsors", and most startlingly of all " a full exempt on tax is needed for official FIFA delegates and sponsors" - essentially creating their very own four-week tax haven. This agreement is something which many people in Holland (a rival bidding nation) have been duly wary about, and have thus predicted that actually, hosting a World Cup would result in a net loss of 150million euros.
So, with Thursday's vote looming, and the true price of hosting a World Cup more evident than ever: have Panorama actually done England a huge favour?