British PM criticizes BBC for FIFA story

Published Nov. 26, 2010 8:05 p.m. ET

British Prime Minister David Cameron has joined criticism of a BBC investigation into FIFA because it could potentially harm England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Cameron said a BBC Panorama documentary set to be broadcast three days before Thursday's vote to decide the hosts of the 2018 and '22 tournaments could hurt England's efforts to hold the competition for the first time since 1966.

The timing of the investigation into corruption at world soccer's governing body has already been called unpatriotic by bid chief executive Andy Anson.

"I've obviously spoken about these issues with FIFA delegates," Cameron said in an interview with the BBC to be broadcast Saturday. "Is it frustrating that Panorama's doing this program a few days before? Of course it is.

"But it's a free country and you have to roll with that. I think FIFA will understand that and I think we also have to try and convince them - yes, we've got a robust and independent media, but our media love football and when it comes to the World Cup in terms of audience, in terms of the press coverage around the world, actually the media will give it a fantastic boost here in this country."

Cameron and Prince William will travel to Zurich next week with the bid team in the hope of persuading any undecided voters to back England against rival submissions from Russia, Netherlands-Belgium and Spain-Portugal.

"I will just have as many meetings as I can with all the key decision makers," Cameron said. "I think we've got a really strong case, so it won't be difficult. I'm looking forward to it."


Cameron is hoping to emulate predecessor Tony Blair, who was credited with helping persuade IOC delegates to back London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

"You've got to put your neck out in life," Cameron said. "We want this, we want to win this, and it would frankly be wrong not to give it everything you've got. 'You don't ask, you don't get,' is my philosophy."

British bookmakers rate Russia as the favorite to host the tournament, with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accompanying his country's bid team to Switzerland.

Speaking to the BBC's Football Focus show, Cameron joked about going toe-to-toe with his famously athletic counterpart.

"Do you want me to arm wrestle for it?" Cameron said. "His exercise regime is probably a bit different to mine, but I'm not going to challenge him to some iron man contest.

"As I said, it's going to be on the merits of the bid."