David Cameron used speech on corruption to reveal how he was blindsided by outcome of FIFA meeting that awarded World Cup to Russia and Qatar
Great sports events including World Cup tainted by corruption
David Cameron, the former British prime minister, has hit out at corruption in the 2010 bidding process for the football World Cup that awarded the tournament to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
In his first major address to a London audience since resigning in 2016, Mr Cameron spoke of his shock at the outcome of the process in Zurich when the British delegation, which he led with Prince William and David Beckham.
Speaking in the context of his major post-prime ministerial cause, the eradication of entrenched corruption, Mr Cameron described how the “dream team” had received multiple pledges of support from FIFA delegates only to end up with negligible support. He quipped that the process was so treacherous, nothing was clear even his home federation support. “I’m not even sure about that.”
The former British leader said the World Cup announcement in Zurich had proved a salutatory lesson for him in the frustrations faced as a result of the “scourge” of corruption.
“We wanted to lead the world in great sporting events that bring people together. Yet how did Russia end up winning the bid for the 2018 World Cup? I will let you fill in the blanks on that one.”
Asked again about the bidding by Qatar and Russia, which was closely coordinated to deliver a rare dual award, Mr Cameron said he applauded the “real vigour” in the way the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had pursued corrupt executives.
He added that the anti-corruption drive would have to save FIFA from itself and its corrupt patrons because it was unrealistic to believe that an alternative world body of football could be created through a breakaway movement.
Mr Cameron flew to the Swiss city in 2010 with a $100 million dollar FIFA scandal already dogging the English ambitions. He tried to confidently reverse the tide with high profile supporters and a five-a-side football game at a Zurich school.
“I've only got one focus here and that's trying to bring the World Cup home for England. That's going to be my focus, talking to the decision-makers and pressing them on the brilliance of English football and what we can bring for this bid," he said at the time. "That's going to be my concern, nothing else."
The former Conservative leader staged an anti-corruption summit just weeks before he quit 10 Downing St following the European referendum defeat for the Remain campaign he led. Acknowledging that political leaders tend not to take up the cause of fighting corruption for fear of stumbling across hidden skeletons. Yet Mr Cameron did so and said the event continued to inform his post-power work.
With the Commonwealth of 53 nations, almost all former British colonies, meeting in central London this week, Mr Cameron said fighting corruption was a cause that could be embrace by all governments for the welfare of their citizens. “To rich countries corruption can seem distant and irrelevant, to poor counties it often seems inevitable,” he said. “Time and again as Prime Minister I saw it as the driving force behind so many events.”
Mr Cameron has worked with the London School of Economics and Oxford University on a major commission inquiring into bolstering fragile states across the world that wraps up its work in June.