Andy Anson says changes needed

Updated: December 3, 2010, 10:52 AM ET
Associated Press

ZURICH -- England and the United States should not try bidding for the World Cup again until FIFA changes the selection process, the chief executive of England's failed 2018 campaign said Friday.

The two developed nations were resoundingly rejected by FIFA in the 2018 and 2022 contests Thursday despite offering the best prospects for technically successful and profitable tournaments.

"It's quite hard to stomach that this seems to count for absolutely nothing," Andy Anson, the England 2018 chief executive, said at a briefing. "I would say right now, don't bother [bidding] until you know that the process is going to change to allow bids like ours to win."

Anson also called on FIFA to introduce broader and more transparent decision-making, which currently involves up to 24 executive committee members voting in a secret ballot.

FIFA's voters opted for the grand design projects of Russia to host in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. The World Cup has never been to Eastern Europe or the Middle East. Qatar has never qualified for the World Cup.

The winners in contests marked by allegations of corruption and voting deals were praised as "formidable competitors" by Anson.

However, he hinted at problems faced by the defeated bids of England, the U.S. and Australia -- developed, western democracies that are losing power and influence in global sports.

"We are clearly accountable to [the media]. We have to do things in a straight, ethical way," Anson said. "The three bids will leave here with their heads held high."

Aggressive scrutiny by the British media was a factor at the end of bid campaigns after two FIFA voters were barred following an investigation into alleged bribe-taking and vote-rigging.

Anson claimed that minutes before the vote began, FIFA president Sepp Blatter reminded his executive colleagues of the "evil of the media."

The England official said the comment was "unhelpful," and other voters gave it as a reason for deserting the bid, which gained only two votes. One was from Geoff Thompson, its own executive committee representative.

"They are saying that our media killed us," Anson said.

The scale of England's first-round elimination was shocking after England believed it had up to eight men to count on in the first round against rival bids from Russia, Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands.

Last-minute lobbying efforts in Zurich by future king Prince William, prime minister David Cameron and soccer icon David Beckham appeared to overcome potential damage done by investigations from The Sunday Times newspaper and the BBC's "Panorama" program.

In one report, the newspaper alleged that a former FIFA official told undercover reporters posing as lobbyists that England's bid stood no chance because its officials did not cut deals.

Anson, a former Manchester United executive who has signed global commercial contracts, said he felt let down.

"It's hard not to when people promise you something and don't deliver," he said. "I've sold a lot of things to a lot of people, and when people shake your hand, you've usually got a deal."

Jeremy Hunt, Britain's culture secretary, branded FIFA's rejection of England a "slap in the face" and also questioned the world governing body's voting methods.

"If the strategy is to take the game to new parts of the world, what is the point of a technical evaluation at all?" Hunt, who was part of England's delegation in Zurich, wrote in his blog.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press