Timing of claims maximised impact

CRIME busting defenders of propriety, or cynical headline grabbers with scant regard for their own country’s three-year long, £12m mission to host the 2018 World Cup? The BBC and Panorama would argue they represent the former, but there have been no shortage of people who disagree.

What is beyond debate is that the programme’s claims of corruption among several of the men who will decide the fate of England’s bid have done nothing to lift the nation’s hopes of winning tomorrow’s vote.

What is equally indisputable, however, is that allegations of this kind should be investigated and that it is the prerogative, if not the duty, of a rigorous free press to ask such uncomfortable questions.

There will also be those who argue that it is unseemly, even immoral, for England and its representatives, who include Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron, to cosy up to men whose integrity has been called into question.

Ultimately, however, the BBC will struggle to convince all their doubters that this was a programme they could not have aired earlier. The timing created maximum publicity, but also appears to have done maximum damage.