Questions are being asked about what went wrong for England after the nation’s humiliating defeat in the bid to host the 2018 World Cup.
Despite investing £15 million and sending big-hitters such as Prince William, David Cameron and David Beckham to Zurich in an attempt to win, only two members of Fifa’s 22-man executive committee voted for England.
The team behind the failed bid said it felt “let down” while Labour called for an independent inquiry.
Voting figures released by Fifa showed England won just a single vote in addition to that of Fifa vice-president Geoff Thompson, compared with four for Holland/Belgium, seven for Spain/Portugal and nine to Russia. Russia, which now has a huge stadium building project on its hands, then won an outright majority in the second round of voting.
In the 2022 contest, Qatar beat the USA in the final round of voting – another controversial decision for a desert country half the size of Wales, with no stadia and where June temperatures can top 50C.
Beckham admitted some of the delegates had mentioned the allegations raised by BBC Panorama, while the Prime Minister said he did not know what more could have been done to win the vote.
Despite a bid described as “excellent and remarkable” by Fifa President Sepp Blatter, judges rejected sending the tournament back to England for the first time since 1966. Though the nation is blessed with excellent stadia, good transport links and policing, it is thought a number of behind-the-scenes factors may have gone against England.
The BBC’s recent Panorama investigation accused three Fifa executive committee members of accepting “corrupt” payments and alleged that Fifa vice-president Jack Warner attempted to supply ticket touts.
But Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin dismissed suggestions England was cheated out of the bid and insisted the contest was fair. Asked if England had been “cheated”, he replied: “No, I don’t think. You know, Great Britain is a great football country and in Russia we have a lot of fans of your football in general and your football players in particular.”
“Great Britain lost. It lost, but we are waiting for you in 2018 and we will do our best for the football players, for the English football players, for them to realise themselves.”