A BACKLASH at media allegations of corruption and vote-swapping pacts were blamed last night after England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup ended in abject humiliation.
England were eliminated from the contest in the first round of the secret ballot after polling just two votes – one of which was from their own delegate Geoff Thompson.
Russia achieved the majority needed to see off a joint bid from Spain and Portugal in the second round, meaning they will stage the tournament for the first time.
England had gone into a day of drama at the headquarters of world governing body Fifa with high hopes of winning, despite stiff competition.
But the expected support failed to materialise, despite frantic lobbying from star turns David Beckham, Prince William and David Cameron – dubbed the Three Lions.
Prime Minister Cameron called the result “bitterly disappointing”, adding: “It is hard to see what more you can do, but in the end it turns out, having the best technical bid, commercial bid, the passion for football, that is not enough.”
Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who was also part of the 30-strong bid team, said: “I certainly don’t think they made a decision on the merits
of the bid. Gutted is an understatement.”
The almost total shunning of England’s bid led to speculation that they had been deliberately frozen out because of media claims of corruption within Fifa.
The Sunday Times and the BBC’s Panorama programme have both accused members of Fifa’s all-powerful executive committee (ExCo) of being involved in bribery.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter namechecked “recent media coverage” and “certain media” in an address to ExCo members before the lunchtime secret ballot.
England captain Rio Ferdinand criticised the BBC for running Panorama, which named three ExCo members it accused of corruption, on Monday night, less than 72 hours before the vote. “The timing of the Panorama programme was bad taste – fact,” Ferdinand wrote on Twitter. “England got lowest votes – 2! Something really can’t be right there.”
Former Football Association chiefs David Davies and Mark Palios said the results suggested a backlash against English media coverage.
“I think that may well be a feature,” said Palios. “To see why we actually came nowhere near and underneath the Belgium/Holland bid, it sounds like it’s almost payback time.”
Davies added: “The problem with the English press, as it was put to me, was: ‘Do we want to live with the English press for the next seven-and-a-half years?’ Which is a big question.”
Andy Anson, chief executive of the 2018 bid, suggested England lost because rivals struck voting pacts with bidders for 2022, which Qatar won in a huge surprise.
“Running two World Cups together was clearly a mistake,” said Anson. “It inevitably led to people with votes in 2018 doing deals with people involved in 2022.
“There were other votes we thought we were going to get. When people look you in the eye and promise you something, you hope they live up to their word.”
SNUBBED | HOW THEY VOTED
Russia 13 WINNER