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Nov 15, 2010

England 2018 asks FIFA ex-co to ignore media

England 2018 bid leaders have sent a letter to all FIFA executive committee members to try to repair the damage caused by two English media investigations into the World Cup bidding process.

The letter, from England 2018's chairman Geoff Thompson - who is also a FIFA and UEFA vice-president - and bid international president David Dein, attempts to distance the campaign from the Sunday Times and BBC Panorama investigations.

This latest fire-fighting measure from England 2018 comes after bid chiefs last week met with FIFA president Sepp Blatter for the same purpose of ensuring the English media's actions would not create an unfair bias against the country's bid in the December 2 vote.

The members of the 24-man FIFA executive committee are assured the organisation would receive a positive reception from the British media should England win the bid for the 2018 tournament against Spain/Portugal, Russia and Holland/Belgium.

England 2018 admit the Sunday Times sting, which has led to FIFA members facing an ethics committee hearing this week, caused significant harm to their campaign and they fear a Panorama programme to be screened three days before the vote could cripple the bid.

The letter states: "We hope England's bid will not be judged negatively due to the activities of individual media organisations, regardless of one's view of their conduct. We hope you appreciate that we have no control over the British media.''

The letter also states that it was England 2018 who first alerted FIFA to the bogus company which turned out to be a front for the Sunday Times investigation.

It adds: "Rest assured we have done all we can to assist FIFA and its members during recent weeks. It was members of the England bid which alerted the FIFA general secretary, on September 29, to the activities of a bogus company which turned out to be the Sunday Times investigation. We kept him informed on regular occasions as we conducted our investigation into this company.''

The letter also confirms bid chief executive Andy Anson visited BBC director general Mark Thompson to raise concerns about Panorama.

"Furthermore it is now public knowledge that we have made representations to the BBC regarding a forthcoming documentary they are planning,'' the letter adds. "We are alerting you to fact that the programme appears in part to be raking over allegations some of which are up to 10 years old and have already been formally dealt with by FIFA and the Swiss courts.''

Anson raised the idea of the letter with Blatter when he visited him in Zurich last week, and was advised it would be a good move. Panorama have infuriated a number of FIFA members including Blatter by writing to them asking for responses to several allegations and confronting them in person. In particular Jack Warner, the CONCACAF president, has been angered by being targeted and with his vote so vital to England's chances, the bid know they have some work to do.

The letter goes on: "Concern over what the future might hold for FIFA in its relationship with the British media if we were to be successful should also be dismissed. We are sure that FIFA would receive a positive reception and can use this unprecedented platform to generate increased awareness for its partners and stakeholders and the promotion of the game globally. We all want a FIFA World Cup vote to focus on the positive elements of the overall bidding process.''

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