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England 2018 bid chief brands BBC as 'unpatriotic'

Fifa headquarters in Zurich
Fifa will decide who will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups on 2 December

The BBC's plan to broadcast a Panorama documentary investigating governing body Fifa is "unpatriotic", says the head of England's 2018 World Cup bid.

"I'm incredibly disappointed with the timing of what the BBC seem to be proposing with Panorama," said the 2018 bid chief executive Andy Anson.

"To do it the week before the vote - I don't think think it's patriotic."

The BBC said the programme, which is expected to go out on 29 November "will be in the public interest".

World governing body Fifa will decide who will host the 2018 and 2022 competitions on 2 December.

Anson's accusation came on the day that Fifa released an executive summary of the various 2018 bids, which rated England as "low risk", a rare piece of good news for the 2018 team that has been buffeted by frequent setbacks.

Good points: Transport, stadia, IT, security, marketing, legacy
Bad points: Too few venue-specific training sites or venue-specific team hotels, too few training base camp hotels
Good points: Stadia, transport, hotels, legacy
Bad points: Lack of clear security plan, co-hosting "a challenge"
Good points: 13 planned new stadia, hotels, legacy
Bad points: Huge transport challenge and major building programme needed
Good points: Stadia, legacy
Bad points: Too few hotel rooms, co-hosting "a challenge", lack of government guarantees

In May, Lord Triesman stepped down as England's 2018 World Cup bid chairman after reportedly accusing Spanish and Russian football federations of conspiring in bribery.

More recently England's bid suffered further damage following corruption allegations made against Fifa by the Sunday Times newspaper.

Anson, who also branded the Panorama programme "sensationalist", has been to see the BBC's director general Mark Thompson about the documentary, but the 2018 bid chief made clear he had not asked for the programme not to be shown.

"I did not ask him to do that, I just told him what the potential implications of doing it would cause," said Anson, who knows the contents of the letters Panorama had sent to Fifa executive committee members it had wanted to interview.

"The issues seem to be things dealt with by the Swiss courts and by Fifa in the past. They're not happy with someone raking over old issues but then, no one would be.

"Maybe we're overreacting. I'm hoping it's an uninteresting and uninspiring programme."

Asked whether Panorama is looking at how much England's bid will cost, Anson replied: "The time to look at that was when we chose the host cities. If they really cared about that, the time to do it was then, not with two days to go before the vote."

Anson also insisted he would not want the coalition government to intervene over the Panorama broadcast given the BBC is publicly funded.


"It is not up to the government to stop the programme. The government has been unbelievably supportive of the bid.

"We have a free media in this country and the BBC can do what they want, I just have to make sure they understand my view of what they are doing."

Former FA chief executive Mark Palios told BBC 5 live: "It's naive to think people will not be affected by this.

"It's a small vote - there's only 22 people - so one or two votes may make all the difference."

Russia and joint bids from Spain and Portugal as well as Belgium and Netherlands are also competing to host the 2018 World Cup.

England finished joint top with Spain/Portugal in Fifa's technical evaluation and Anson remains upbeat about his bid's chances of success.

He maintains England have not lost a single vote during the past month and is adamant that the bid's key supporters have remained loyal.

Anson also hopes that the presence of Prince William, the Prime Minister David Cameron and ex-captain David Beckham - a "potent combination of football, royalty and government," according to the 2018 chief - will prove key at the final presentation in Zurich.

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see also
Russia 2018 bid dealt Fifa blow
17 Nov 10 |  Football
England 2018 bid rated 'low risk'
16 Nov 10 |  Football
Qatar 2022 bid hopes suffer blow
17 Nov 10 |  Football
England 2018 team write to Fifa
15 Nov 10 |  Football
Fifa row has hit England 2018 bid
04 Nov 10 |  Football
Fifa official condemns vote sting
02 Nov 10 |  African
The World Cup in their hands
02 Dec 10 |  Football
Fifa retains World Cup vote date
29 Oct 10 |  Football
Russia deny England bid criticism
19 Oct 10 |  Football
Fifa widens Cup bidding inquiry
18 Oct 10 |  Football
Fifa row 'will not hurt England'
18 Oct 10 |  Football
Fifa examines vote selling claims
17 Oct 10 |  Football
World Cup bids head-to-head
17 Oct 10 |  Football
England withdraw bid for 2022 Cup
15 Oct 10 |  Football

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