Soccer: How the double dealing went down

By Sam Wallace

England 2018 chief executive Andy Anson. Photo / AP
England 2018 chief executive Andy Anson. Photo / AP

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1

David Beckham and Prince William stay up to 11pm talking with ExCo members at the Baur au Lac hotel. The warmth with which Jack Warner throws an arm round William and tells him that England have his vote suggests that they have nothing to fear.

The English bid is counting on seven votes which they have shaken hands on and reconfirmed time and again. They are Chung Moon Joon (South Korea), Marios Lefkaritis (Cyprus), Jacques Anouma (Ivory Coast) and Jack Warner (Trinidad) who has promised to deliver his fellow Concacaf (North and Central America and Carribbean) delegates Chuck Blazer (USA) and Rafael Salguero (Guatemala).

The English ExCo member Geoff Thompson believes he also has a personal guarantee from his close friend Senes Erzik (Turkey) to vote for England.

William and Beckham leave the Baur au Lac. Andy Anson, 2018 bid chief executive, also goes to bed early to prepare for the presentation the following morning.

Simon Greenberg, chief of staff, and David Dein, international chairman, stay up to 5am to "man-mark" the ExCo members who have promised bids and recheck that they are solid for England.

They are aware of representatives of the sports-rights company Sportfive in the room thought to be working on behalf of the Russians.

But the bid team are suspicious: why has Warner not asked them for Thompson's vote for the USA in the 2022 race in return for the Concacaf bloc?

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 2

Before the presentations, the Fifa president Sepp Blatter thanks Anson for turning around "bad" coverage of Fifa in the English press to "fantastic" coverage in the last few days.

The English bid is told that their final presentation - featuring David Beckham, David Cameron, Prince William and Manchester City community worker Eddie Afekafe - was the best of the four for 2018.

The ExCo meets at Fifa House in private. Behind closed doors Blatter asks the 22-man body - the ExCo is missing the two members suspended after the Sunday Times investigation - not to forget "evils of the media" in a clear reference to the English.

Alone in the room, where there is no mobile phone coverage, Thompson knows that is a signal to ditch the English - if most have not done so already. It is all over for the bid.

The 22 ExCo members have one vote per round in both the 2018 and 2022 races. Thompson naturally votes for England in the first round and believes he has an agreement to vote for Korea in the 2022 bid in return for Chung's vote in 2018. He also has a reciprocal agreement with the Holland-Belgium bid team that they will vote for the other in the event of one being eliminated.

England get two votes in the first round: Thompson and Issa Hayatou (Cameroon), ironically one of the ExCo targeted by Monday's Panorama BBC investigation.

England are eliminated in humiliating fashion in the first round. Russia win in the second round.

Thompson votes for Korea in the first round of 2022. Chung, billionaire scion of the family that owns Hyundai, does not vote as expected in the 2018 bid.

Korea are eliminated in the first round of 2022. In the next three rounds Thompson votes for the US, as is his agreement.

In the 2022 race there are suggestions that Warner has not delivered his three Concacaf votes to the US which would mean, incredibly, that the American ExCo member Blazer did not even vote for his own country.

The Australians are eliminated in the 2022 first round with one vote, thought to be that of Franz Beckenbauer. They have spent around £25m ($51.5m) on their bid which had good technical and economic reports from Fifa.

There are suggestions that even Michel Platini, who has built his Uefa presidency on opposing big money in football, has voted for Qatar - the tiny emirate with no football history but big oil wealth.

Platini is thought to have been heavily influenced by Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, who is negotiating a A$1bn-plus investment by Qatar in the French nuclear fuel programme.

Qatar triumph in the fourth round of voting at 2022. The Fifa ExCo members are ferried to limousines waiting to take them back to the Zurich Messehalle to attend the official announcement of the results to the world's media.

Thompson arrives and spots Anson and the bid team waiting to go in to the announcement. He breaks the bad news, telling them they were eliminated in the first round. Boris Johnson and Gary Lineker walk back towards the English media. Their expressions say it all.

Former Chile FA president Harold Mayne-Nicholls, who was in charge of Fifa's technical evaluations - which rated England as the best 2018 bid - apologises personally to Anson.

It also emerges Fifa president Sepp Blatter had warned executive committee meetings about the "evils of the British media" shortly before voting, an intervention seen as a deliberate attempt to damage the bid.

After facing the media, Anson returns to the Baur au Lac where four of those previously mentioned ExCo members who had an agreement to vote for England launch into a "tirade" against the English media. They had said nothing on the subject before the vote.

"I hope it is a convenient excuse and they just had other reasons for going to Russia that they are not prepared to tell us about," says Anson. "Because it's a crap excuse."

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3

Anson announces that England will not bid again until Fifa reforms the voting process. Asked if England would host the tournament in the foreseeable future, Anson says: "Not unless the process changes dramatically. I think the next one will be in Antarctica in heated stadiums."

The English Football Association's relations with Fifa plummet to a new low when the acting FA chairman Roger Burden withdraws his candidacy to take the job on a permanent basis citing his unwillingness to work with those in Fifa he "cannot trust".

The FA is to cancel an England friendly with Thailand in June, organised to convince the Thai ExCo member Worawi Makudi to vote for the English bid. He didn't.

Mutterings about a rebellion from member countries like England and the US. Could this be the catalyst for a Kerry Packer-style breakaway?

- Independent

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