It has been a shocking week for England where the World Cup is concerned. As the fallout continues after the 2018 World Cup bid spectacularly failed in Zurich, Owen Gibson from the Guardian names and shames the FIFA delegates who turned their back on England.
The morning after the night before, the shell‑shocked England 2018 chief executive, Andy Anson, shakes his head as he attempts to unpick why their core vote collapsed. "I still find it hard to understand what happened," he said. "I'm not going to beat around the bush – individual members promised to vote for us and didn't, clearly."
Perhaps appropriately for England's rollercoaster but ultimately doomed campaign Anson's final 24 hours swung from huge highs to crushing lows. On Wednesday night he had appeared to be having the time of his life as England's "three lions" – Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham – lobbied executive committee members in the Baur au Lac hotel in an effort to capitalise on the momentum they believed they had generated. By the following afternoon he was ashen-faced as England's one executive committee member, Geoff Thompson, informed the bid team that they had been knocked out in the first round and garnered only two votes.
Anson insisted yesterday they had not been naive in taking at their word the executive committee members they had spent the past 20 months lobbying but did concede that perhaps England lacked real clout where it mattered. The smile and shake of the head of Russia chief executive Alexei Sorokin when asked whether he was surprised that England crashed out with just two votes said it all. "Russia did a lot of last-minute lobbying and votes appeared to switch at the last minute – we know some switched in the early hours of the morning," said Anson. "I hope [the British media] is a convenient excuse and they just had other reasons for going to Russia that they are not prepared to tell us about. Because for me it's a crap excuse."
Senior members of the bid team were convinced yesterday that the "night of the long knives" was a co-ordinated exercise designed to close ranks and punish the English bid team for their media. England's team thought that they had up to eight backers even allowing for 25% falling away that would be enough to see them through to the second round. But virtually every one of England's supporters vanished. As it happens, it was only Issa Hayatou, the Cameroonian who was featured in this week's Panorama programme cited by some as the reason for switching their vote, who stuck by England in return for their support in 2002 when he unsuccessfully tried to unseat Blatter.
Jack Warner, the Concacaf president who has revelled in his status as kingmaker of the English bid, shook hands with Cameron, had his picture taken with Prince William, then promptly took his three votes to Russia. As the equally bitter USA bid team for 2022 tried desperately to work out why their initial first round vote was so low, they pondered the possibility that Warner – and their own federation – may not even have voted for them. The Cypriot Marios Lefkaritis and the Ivorian Jacques Anouma did likewise. All four of those agreements were understood to be witnessed by several parties. A pledge made over a handshake between Turkey's Senes Erzik and Thompson was also broken. All went to Russia, except Erzik, who went to Holland/Belgium in what appeared to be a calculated effort to knock out England in the first round. Anouma, it is believed, switched his support after a meeting in the early hours with representatives of the Russian bid.
After the first round of voting Michel Platini, Michel d'Hooghe and Junji Ogura – all believed to be sympathetic to England at various points in the process – sided with Russia and so gave it victory over a Spain/Portugal bid that held on to the seven votes it started with but gained no more. They were secured through a pact with Qatar's 2022 bid that was the subject of so much conjecture but which Fifa's ethics committee could not find "sufficient grounds" to declare outside the rules.
As Anson again reiterated yesterday the parallel nature of the races was a problem. In a race where everyone needed something to trade, England – isolated without any natural alliances – could offer only one vote to trade. Thompson – honest and respected to some, invisible and ineffective to others – was insistent that he would not offer his vote to multiple bidders, as others clearly did.
Even here things went awry. Thompson agreed a pact with Chung Mong-joon that would see England support South Korea in the 2022 race, for the first round at least. It was sealed over a whisky with the prime minister and Thompson delivered his side of the bargain. The motivation for treachery was not personal gain but political expediency. Chung, a hugely wealthy member of the Hyundai dynasty and with close links to the ruling party came under pressure from the Korean government to vote for Russia because it needs Vladimir Putin's support in putting pressure on its neighbour North Korea.
Putin, heavily involved throughout the bid, put in long stints on the phone on the eve of the vote to Blatter and others despite not being there in person.
If, as it appears, the bid was essentially won and lost in the close confines of the black granite and chrome boardroom of the Fifa executive committee, why did Thompson not see what was coming? All agree that the Sheffield-born Thompson is a decent and honorable man. But, on the evidence of the past two years in general and the past week in particular, a quiet manner and a commitment to honesty will get you only so far at Fifa House. In comparison with the energetic Mohamed Bin Hammam, who against all the odds and with access to unlimited funds, pulled off the unlikely and to some unrealistic prospect of a World Cup in Qatar, or the supreme salesmanship and networking of Spain's Angel María Villar Llona, Thompson was never going to deliver. Perhaps England were never going to win, given their lack of influence and insistence on playing by the rules, but if that was the case it starts to look like folly to spend £18m and two years trying.
Thompson will hand over his seat on the Fifa executive committee to the Northern Irishman Jim Boyce, who is known to feel that Thompson has been badly dealt with by Fifa, in April under a pre-arranged deal between the home nations. Boyce, perhaps more charismatic, also styles himself as a straight dealer.
Thompson looked punch drunk by the end of a bruising day that had begun in such optimism as England's team dared to dream that the presence of the "three lions", their glossy films, pre-eminence in the technical reports and so on was any substitute for cutting binding deals with 22 untrustworthy individuals whose motivation was perhaps less about the best World Cup and more about what was best for them.