Saturday, 4 December 2010

FIFA World Cup Storm: FA Chairman Resigns and Thailand Friendly Is Off

Roger Burden, the acting FA chairman, has quit and England have called off their friendly against Thailand as the fall-out from the FIFA World Cup voting scandal continues.

Burden, appointed in May when he replaced Lord Triesman (who, ironically, resigned over comments regarding World Cup collusion between Spain and Russia), said: “I’m not prepared to deal with people I can’t trust. I recognise that an important part of my role would be liaising with FIFA so I’ve withdrawn my candidacy.”

The Thai clash, scheduled for June, has been cancelled as the game was only planned in return for support for England’s World Cup bid. In the end, England only gained two votes – their own and Japan’s – when Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup in Zurich on Thursday.

Burden is as mystified as the rest of the country by England’s first round failure in the ballot. He said: "We were equal top of Fifa's own technical assessment of the four bids. We were top of an independent assessment of the best commercial bids and our final presentation was widely acclaimed as the best of the 2018 and 2022 bids.

" I am struggling to understand how we only achieved two votes. It is difficult to believe that the voting was an objective process. Prince William, the Prime Minister and other members of our delegation were promised votes that did not materialise."

The English tabloids have concentrated on the “betrayal” behind last Thursday’s vote. Prince William was promised “at least six votes” but the 22 members of the FIFA Executive Committee – including the much courted CONCACAF member Jack Warner - went back on their word, leading to allegations of corruption and bribery.

Two members of the Exec Committee had already been suspended after a Sunday Times investigation two months ago and BBC’s Panorama team put three more members under pressure last Monday. That may have skewed the vote but Burden said: "We have a free press in our country. There is no doubt that English football benefits from the media coverage that it receives and would have been given great coverage if we had brought the World Cup to England.”

Both Russia and Qatar, who won the right to host the 2022 World Cup, have an appalling record when it comes to press freedom. The Press Freedom Index, which lists England at 19 in their carefully compiled rankings, has Russia at 140 and Qatar at 120.

But while the media waxed lyrical over those and other issues – Russia and Qatar have yet to build the vast majority of their stadia - Burden added: "I have no issue with Russia's winning bid. I am sure they will put on a great World Cup and I have congratulated them."

Burden will stay on while the FA search for a successor, which may prove a tough task after the week’s shenanigans.

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