Friday, 3 December 2010

The World Cup and a backlash against lobbyists

The disappointment, etched on Prince William's face as he sat waiting for confirmation England had failed to secure the 2018 World Cup, was painful to see. In the immediate aftermath the bid team just about managed to keep their tempers. Keeping on message, the key spokespeople as one talked about the 'great bid' put forward by England. The bitterness and anger in the eyes of David Beckham, bid chief Andy Anson and David Cameron couldn't be disguised.

Having watched the presentations there is simply no justification for England only receiving two votes out of a possible 22. It was slick and polished and in Eddie Afekafe - a young Manchester City community worker - we surely have found a contender for sports personality of the year. The problem is the presentations were meaningless when it came to influencing the vote. Ed Miliband might as well have rocked up with a blank sheet of paper. The decisions had been made long before the British Prime Minister joined the future King and the most famous footballer in the world on, what turned out to be, a suicide mission.

Fifa, the world governing body of football, like Uefa, their European counterparts, are not transparent or democratic. There has been a whiff of corruption around for a while. In the last year they made a profit of nearly $200m on revenues over $1bn. Profits are distributed to its member associations. It is well worth being in the tent pissing out rather than out of the tent pissing in.  

In the Fifa electoral council you have the epitome of cronyism and shady lobbying that has so mired US political life. Earlier this year David Cameron put a shot across the bows of the lobbying industry warning that it would be the cause of the next political scandal. Word from within the government is that Ministers are being far more selective than Labour ever were in who secures time in their diary.      

Perhaps, as recriminations begin after England's embarrassment in Zurich, David Cameron may see an opportunity to draw comparisons between the process that ultimately won Russia the right to host the World Cup, and the actions some take to try and influence government policy.

Back in February Mr Cameron said he wanted to "take the power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman on the street". After yesterday's events he may well be looking to take his anger out on someone. Lobbyists and special interest groups might regret the day a British Prime Minister and future King were left powerless by a different elite.

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