The Singing Truth

In the fallout of the recent World Cup voting scandal that saw FIFA executive committee members Amos Adamu and Reynald Temarii suspended following Sunday Times allegations that they asked for money for projects in return for World Cup votes, a senior official within FIFA has condemned the undercover operation (fronted by the Sunday Times newspaper) exposing the two, as “unethical”.

Mohammed Bin Hammam, member of the executive committee which will vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts, expressed severe reservations over the fairness of the Sunday Times investigation, which allegedly involved forging identity, fabricating evidence and setting deceptive traps for Adamu and Temarii. In a spate of vitriol, Bin Hammon asked “How will we clean dirty laundry by using dirty water?”. Or in plainer terms: why should we condone those who seek to protect the ethic by using unethical measures? It’s certainly an interesting question, and indeed a particularly poignant one given the number of high profile ‘stings’ conducted by the press in the world of sport in recent times.

A particular case in point, was the recent elaborately conducted sting against snooker player John Higgins by the News Of The World newspaper, who sent undercover reporters disguised as businessmen and recorded a deal between the two parties whereby Higgins agreed to throw frames in exchange for money. After the scandal went public, an independent tribunal cleared Higgins of match-fixing; accepting that he had only acquiesced with the businessmen on the basis that he had “feared for (his) safety”. Now if this truly was the case, then probing questions must be asked as to the morality of newspapers’ attempts of hectoring information out of their chosen victims. With large sums of money being offered, along with alcohol to help in loosening the tongue, many will now take the view (like Bin Hammam) that those who conduct the “sting” operations are no better than those who take the bait.

However, whilst reservations are rightly held regarding the methods behind obtaining these stories, they must go on for the simple reason that if they’re not being conducted by investigative reporters, someone with reasons far less decent than exposure would seek to do so. The News Of The World’s recent investigation into the match-fixing of the Pakistani cricket team actually served to raise more questions than it answered – it revealed how frighteningly simple it can be to alter the outcome of competitive sport. We can only speculate as to how rife match-fixing is in the game of cricket, but like with any lucrative industry, only the greatest of optimists would think it to be minimal.

Bin Hammam, however, got one thing right when he said as an afterword “we all underestimated the passion for the game around the world; we miscalculated how much football has influence over the feelings of people”. The largest sporting event in the world is too big to be influenced by two corrupt individuals – we should be thankful for the self-regulation these reports have brought to the bidding process.

Though it might have been widely prophesied that England’s own bid to host the 2018 World Cup will suffer a backlash from FIFA members unhappy at the behaviour of the Sunday Times, and it would undeniably be a great tragedy to miss the honour of playing host, is it really worth the price now we have been shown the cost?

Tom Wilson


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