Why Britain campaigns against Fifa and Russia


munch1The UK is showing stunning determination when it comes to the World Cup 2018 in Russia. For a year already, it keeps trying to derail the plans for the competition with the idea to relocate or to boycott it under various reasons: corruption, collusion, war in Ukraine or simply as leverage against Fifa.

It is now almost a year since the Sunday Times published the article where it accused Russia and Qatar of wrongdoing while bidding for the World Cups 2018 and 2022. They based their claims on a bunch of authorities’ emails from different countries. Journalists accused Russia of collusion and Qatar of corruption.

There were even claims to strip Russia of the World Cup but the reason was not suspicion of its unfair selection but rather the war in Ukraine. Many politicians and columnists saw this opportunity as an effective way of influencing the conflict to its end.

However, accusations levelled at Russia remained ungrounded. There was no at any measure clear proof of its wrongdoing and the internal investigation carried out by Fifa cleared both countries.

The UK did not hide its frustration with the outcomes and it rejoiced when a series of arrests gave a new impetus to the scandal. On 27 May, Swiss police and FBI arrested seven people in Zurich, including top Fifa officials. They are accused of bribery, racketeering and money-laundering.

On Saturday, 30 May, sport minister Tracey Crouch, FA chairman Greg Dyke and Prince William (who is FA president)  raised their voices against Fifa chief Sepp Blatter. On Sunday, 31 May, they were followed by John Whittingdale, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Their criticism was almost identical: they called on Fifa to be reformed and Blatter to resign. They gave him two options. A ‘good’ option means Blatter’s voluntary resignation. A ‘bad’ option means growing pressure on Fifa from international investigators, Uefa, and sponsors. There were also repeated claims to create an alternative Fifa. Finally. British banks Barclays and Standard Chartered reported their joining the investigation into possible corruption.

The search for corruption in Fifa, like a year ago, has come to the World Cup 2018 in Russia. Some politicians repeated or articulated for the first time that it should be boycotted. It is hard to see anything but fight against corruption in these words at first glance. But given continuous attempts to undermine reputation and prospects of the international event, it is obviously more than that. Beside sport interests, there are foreign policy calculations and a desire of revenge for past defeats. And this is how the entire situation looks like at least for part of British nationals and the Conservative Party.

“Thanks to US and Swiss investigators, we now seem to know why England’s 2018 World Cup bid failed,” one of the most vivid British politicians and possible next leader of the Tories Boris Johnson writes. In 2010, England managed to grab only two votes and finished last of the four contenders. Johnson describes it as “a moment of national humiliation and derision.” [1]

His views on the current Fifa are also interesting. It is a threat to “an Anglo-American imperium”, he believes and thinks of Europeans as “a geopolitical problem.” In this outburst of radical euroscepticism and hatred towards European bureaucracy (Fifa), he does not mention Russia a single time. But it is obvious from his logic that it cannot get away with it, it cannot be pleaded “not guilty” simply because ‘if the Americans are right about Fifa corruption’ and the England’s ‘superb’ bid failed, how was it possible that Russia would host the World Cup 2018? Not to mention geopolitical controversies.

But it is not only Britain that will decide on the future, regardless of however strong their discontent of the 2010 decision were and however strong they aspired to change Fifa and the host country of the World Cup. The UK is a Coriolanus from the adaptations where reflecting before his soldiers, he asks: “Me alone?” and, seeing their unanimous support, goes on audaciously: “Make you a sword of me!” Without help and allies, the noise in the British media, followed by the statements from politicians and authorities, will abate as quickly as it rises. England cannot act alone, Greg Dyke confirms [2].

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/fifa/11642359/Did-Fifa-corruption-cheat-England-out-of-World-Cup-glory.html

[2] http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/32950203

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