Fifa corruption saga has shown British journalism at its best

Morning View
Morning View

The Fifa saga has been an illustration of the integrity of British journalism and, indeed, the overall social and political culture of the UK.

Not many countries would tolerate their prospects of hosting a World Cup being jeopardised in the way that England’s 2018 bid was by the enraging of Fifa on the eve of its decision to award that tournament.

But that is the risk that was taken when the BBC broadcast a Panorama expose of Fifa in 2010 days before the vote which gave the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 Cup to Qatar.

It was magnificently brave journalism, showing the corporation at its best.

The programme followed an investigation into corruption at Fifa by the Sunday Times– a newspaper that has a long tradition of important exposes.

The then Fifa vice-president Jack Warner said: “Fifa could not have voted for England having been insulted by their media in the worst possible way.”

Not everyone in British sport or politics was as brave as the BBC or the Sunday Times. Some members of England’s 2018 bid labelled the Panorama programme an “embarrassment”.

Now the appropriateness of such journalism is clear.

Fifa has refused to publish in full Michael Garcia’s 430-page report into corruption allegations. He described their summary as “incomplete and erroneous” before he resigned as Fifa’s independent ethics investigator.

This week Fifa officials have been arrested at a hotel in Zurich and charged by US authorities over allegations of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies.

England was isolated in 2010 but is much less so now. In recent months some voices in Germany have begun to consider a World Cup boycott if Mr Garcia’s report is not revealed.

Long-term vindication of a country’s sporting, political and media culture is much more important than the short-term pleasure that comes from hosting a World Cup that has been obtained dishonourably.