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2006 World Cup decision Saturday, 8 July, 2000, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Legal threat over World Cup prank
Titanic magazine editor Martin Sonnebourn
Titanic editor Martin Sonneborn says the hoax was a prank
German soccer chiefs have threatened legal action against the satirical magazine behind hoax bribes offered to Fifa delegates on the eve of Germany's successful 2006 World Cup bid.

German Football Federation (DFB) general secretary Horst Schmidt was quoted by the German Bild newspaper as saying the hoax had damaged both his organisation and the country.


The limits of satire have been far exceeded

Horst Schmidt, DFB

Spokesman Michael Novak confirmed that the DFB was considering taking legal action over the "considerable damage" caused, not just to individuals, but also to Fifa.

The 'bribes' came in hoax fax messages, produced by satirical magazine Titanic, offering delegates a tongue-in-cheek selection of stereotypical German gifts, including sausages and a 'wonderful ku ku clock'.

"The limits of satire have been far exceeded," Mr Schmidt was quoted as saying.

Germany's bid to host the finals defeated South Africa's challenge by 12 votes to 11 on Thursday.

This came after Oceania delegate Charles Dempsey abstained, saying he had been put under "intolerable pressure" on the eve of the vote.

The 78-year-old New Zealander said a 'letter' offering him a bribe was one factor behind his decision, but it was not clear whether he was referring to the hoax messages.

Hoax condemned

Franz Beckenbauer
The press has attacked Titanic for using Franz Beckenbauer's name

The German press has attacked Titanic magazine, saying the prank had tainted Germany's successful bid, and cast a shadow over celebrations.

Popular daily Bild called the hoax a "Bad joke against Franz Beckenbauer", in a reference to the German football legend, whose name was mentioned in the bogus messages.

Bild went on: "Germany was celebrating [winning the right to host] the World Cup - then a shock."

It accused Titanic of bad taste and added: "It could have cost us the World Cup."

The paper also published Titanic's phone number, and invited its readers to "Tell them what you think".

Suddeutsche Zeitung said the fact that it had taken so long to establish the fax was a hoax proved "how sensitive the sporting world has become".

"Since the Olympic Games scandal, public opinion has lost all its illusions about the integrity of numerous sporting chiefs," said the paper.

The paper also struck a note of cynicism about Germany's bid saying that, although it was unfair that Beckenbauer had been unfairly caught up in the controversy, "it would be totally naive to think Beckenbauer alone won the day, and it was not down to numerous deals done in corridors."

'Democratic deficit'

The Berliner Zeitung said it was too serious a matter to debate the limits of satire.

Germany wins the right ot stage the 2006 world cup
The voting procedure should be urgently reformed, say the press

However, it said the fax had shown "the weaknesses in a Fifa system marked by nepotism and a democratic deficit as well as the strong tendency of the power players to brush under the carpet disturbing incidents."

The paper recommends that Fifa adopt a transparent voting system.

Most journalists quickly saw through the fax as a prank although some - notably Britain's Channel 4 Television and some British national papers - were taken in, treating the fax very seriously in their coverage of the voting fiasco.

See also:

07 Jul 00 | 2006 World Cup decision
07 Jul 00 | Media reports
07 Jul 00 | 2006 World Cup decision
07 Jul 00 | 2006 World Cup decision
06 Jul 00 | 2006 World Cup decision
07 Jul 00 | 2006 World Cup decision
07 Jul 00 | 2006 World Cup decision
Links to more 2006 World Cup decision stories are at the foot of the page.


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