BBC says it isn’t trying to sabotage 2018 World Cup bid – but it’s making a bloody good job of it

The BBC’s Panorama current affairs programme is planning to broadcast an edition on November 29 examining corruption in FIFA, the body that runs world football.

On December 2 the twenty-odd delegates of FIFA who will make the decision about the destination of the 2018 tournament (the competitors are England, Russia, Belgium/Holland and Spain /Portugal) will vote in Zurich, if they can actually make it to the polling booth in face of intense lobbying from UK PM David Cameron, David Beckham and even Katie Price, for all I know.

But by then the BBC will very likely have killed off the bid in a late miscarriage by unleashing proverbial loose cannon reporter Andrew Jennings on to the tail of FIFA. Jennings boasts that he’s the only reporter to be banned by FIFA from its press conferences. So where does he get his information from? And he’s hardly an impartial reporter is he?

The BBC probably includes more clever people than any other institution in the country but, with many of them, it’s a case of more brains than intelligence. Director general Mark Thompson, who has firmly resisted requests to reschedule this programme, is clearly one of them.

Putting the programme on three days before the FIFA vote is an obvious ratings grabber by the Beeb. But the BBC isn’t supposed to be about ratings.

The embattled souls in the BBC’s current affairs department will be delighted at this because they have been steadily sidelined over the years. Who watches Panorama? Suddenly they’re important again.

They, and Thompson, will say this is fearless investigative journalism at its best. But it isn’t.

If they have anything on FIFA and its executives or delegates they could run the programme now. Or after the vote. It wouldn’t matter, the corrupt delegates would get their just desserts, as two of them just have by being suspended and fined after a Sunday Times investigation.

Biut this is just grandstanding by the Beeb, whose recent ‘investigations’ have completely failed to stick, anywhere. They’re just not very good at it.

The 2018 World Cup bid is important. Should it be successful it will be of immeasurable economic benefit to the country, cheer us all up and we might even win the damn thing (let’s face it, we’re not going to win it anywhere else).

Thompson and co should put the programme out next week and stop being juvenile.

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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.