LONDON – England should boycott the 2018 World Cup because someone needs to take a stand against corruption in Fifa and military aggression by Russia, Andy Burnham, the favourite to be the next Labour leader, has said.
Burnham spoke out amid growing pressure on the English Football Association to do more than condemn Fifa, following a string of bribery charges against senior officials and the refusal of its president, Sepp Blatter, to stand down.
Speaking on the BBC’s Pienaar’s Politics, he said: “I’ve long had my doubts about Russia holding the next World Cup … Now with all of this, I believe there is a pretty overwhelming case for England taking a stand and saying we should not participate in the next World Cup given the current appalling state of Fifa.”
Referring to the English FA’s reservations about boycotting the contest on its own, he said: “Maybe they should just be a bit stronger.”
John Whittingdale, the culture, media and sport secretary, took a strong position against Fifa in the Sunday Times, writing that “no options should be ruled out” when it comes to European nations boycotting future World Cups if Fifa refuses to get rid of Blatter.
The Duke of Cambridge, who is president of the FA, also waded into the controversy by calling on Fifa to “show that it can represent the interests of fair play and put the sport first”.
However, Greg Dyke, the chairman of the FA, said it was “ridiculous” to suggest England could take unilateral action without the support of other footballing nations in European and Latin America. Dyke said he thought Blatter would not last another four years and the best way of cleaning up international football was putting pressure on sponsors and other countries to take collective action.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Dyke said: “Putting pressure on Sepp Blatter is pretty impossible. But putting pressure on other footballing nations and sponsors is a good idea, I think. The duke is … obviously upset by what’s happened and feels quite strongly about it.”
He added: “But it would be ridiculous to try to do it on your own. All we’d do is pull out of the World Cup and everyone would say well done and forget all about it. It’s got to be done by enough nations to have an impact if it’s done. But I don’t think Blatter will last four years. Events of last week – the attorney general said this is the beginning, not the end.”
Dyke suggested the award of the World Cup to Qatar in 2022 could be revisited in light of scrutiny of the process.
Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term at Fifa on Friday despite a string of bribery charges against senior officials and the likelihood that he will be questioned as part of the inquiry. He accused the US and UK of trying to seek revenge against him before the meeting to re-elect him in Switzerland last week.
Blatter said over the weekend the timing of the raid by the Swiss police, who have been cooperating with a long-running FBI investigation, was designed to remove him from office.
“No one is going to tell me that it was a simple coincidence, this American attack two days before the elections of Fifa. It doesn’t smell right. This has touched me and Fifa,” he said. “There are signs that cannot be ignored. The Americans were the candidates for the World Cup of 2022 and they lost. The English were the candidates for 2018 and they lost, so it was really the English media and the American movement.”
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has also claimed that the arrests were an attempt to undermine Blatter and destabilise the 2018 World Cup. – The Guardian