BBC fails to make its case for Panorama FIFA bribery programme timing

“It should have been on the History Channel,” said David Dein, former director of Arsenal, of the BBC Panorama programme on bribery at FIFA, the governing body of world football.

Dein, who is now trying to apply sticking plaster to England’s bid for the FIFA 2018 World Cup which will be decided in Zurich on Thursday, clearly believes that the timing of the BBC broadcast, three days before the vote, was unjustifiable given the nature of the revelations, most of which happened between 1989 and 1999 and were the subject of a court case in 2008.

Some of the alleged benefactors of sports marketing firm ISL which handed out the money in the 1990s (it collapsed in 2001) are still around on the FIFA voting panel but that hardly justifies the BBC’s timing of the programme which will surely kill any slim hopes England had of hosting the tournament after a botched campaign.

Despite BBC current affairs panjandrum Clive Edwards claiming to a sceptical John Humphrys on Today that the programme couldn’t go out earlier because, among other things, “they were still editing it two hours before (transmission),” there’s no doubt that Andrew Jennings’ rather dog-eared investigation could have been broadcast earlier or indeed later.

As things stand it’s a horrible own goal for the BBC and one which goes all the way up to director general (and editor in chief) Mark Thompson who airily dismissed complaints about timing from Andy Anson and his 2018 bid team.

It’s hardly an advertisement for FIFA or sports marketing companies either, of course.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.