A Yorkshire MP has called for talks on the issue of European nations boycotting the 2018 World Cup in Russia as pressure mounted on football’s world governing body Fifa over the corruption scandal.
Conservative Alec Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet and Rothwell, made his comments during an emergency debate where the Culture Secretary said the FA and the Government needed to discuss the “nuclear option” of the home nations withdrawing from Fifa.
His comments were followed by similar sentiments from Michel Platini, the president of European football’s governing body UEFA, who says he has not ruled out the possibility of a World Cup boycott by UEFA members if Sepp Blatter is re-elected as FIFA president on Friday.
Pressure was today mounting on Blatter to quit as politicians and sponsors lined up to demand action after the darkest day in its history which saw senior officials arrested on suspicion of “rampant” corruption.
Platini asked Blatter to stand down when the pair met on Thursday amid fresh FIFA corruption allegations emerging from separate inquiries by the US Department of Justice and the Swiss government.
Blatter refused to quit and still intends to stand against Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein in Friday’s presidential vote.
Platini said UEFA would unite behind Prince Ali and admitted that, if the 79-year-old Blatter was to win a fifth term in office, UEFA would have some tough decisions to make when its members meet again in Berlin next week before the Champions League final.
Asked if a boycott of FIFA competitions was a possibility, Platini said: “UEFA associations will meet in Berlin next week. We will be open to all options.”
Pressed further on the prospect of a World Cup boycott, Platini added: “There may be proposals. I honestly don’t wish that.”
Culture Secretary John Whittingdale had earlier told MPs that a World Cup boycott was a matter for the Football Association but talks should take place about the potential action should Sepp Blatter by re-elected as president.
Mr Whittingdale said as large a coalition as possible is required to put effective pressure on Fifa, with talks planned with other European and international football associations.
Conservative Shipley MP Philip Davies warned Fifa is “clearly corrupt” and called for a stand to be made.
He asked Mr Whittingdale: “If the election goes ahead and Sepp Blatter is re-elected, unbelievably, as the head of Fifa, will you encourage the home nations to withdraw from Fifa, to make a stand on this particular issue?
“And if they were to make that decision, would the Government support them in that decision?”
Mr Whittingdale replied: “What happens after Friday if indeed Sepp Blatter is re-elected will need careful consideration primarily by the FA.
“It has been taken for granted up until now that Sepp Blatter is going to win but obviously the election has not taken place and elections do not always produce the outcome that the experts predicted so we shall wait to see.
“I shall certainly be seeing (FA chairman) Greg Dyke very shortly to discuss the attitude of the FA.
“There are a number of options - whether or not one would resort to the nuclear option which you suggested is a matter for the FA but one we will need to discuss with them.”
He added: “I mentioned the Minister for Sport is writing to her counterparts today but I’m sure she will be very happy to take up your suggestion to have meetings with them in due course to discuss how best to take this forward.
“I don’t think we’re yet at the stage of boycotting the World Cup, which might cause concern to a large number of people who enjoy the World Cup, but there’s no question something has to be done.”
Mr Shelbrooke had told Mr Whittingdale: “You described the nuclear option in response to (Mr Davies).
“I say to you that’s not the nuclear option, that’s simply sending in the infantry.
“The real nuclear option which would cause Armageddon in the football world is whether Uefa boycotted the World Cup.
“Uefa has been honourable in this situation. It’s today trying to make representations to boycott the congress and make sure that happens.
“Can I ask whether you would send your minister to her counterparts in Europe to discuss the real option of Uefa boycotting the World Cup in 2018, which would have such an impact commercially for Fifa that they would have to take notice?”
Yesterday, former Sports Minister and Sheffield MP Richard Caborn has called on Fifa to publish in full the report by US attorney Michael Garcia into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process.
American attorney Garcia was appointed Fifa’s independent ethics investigator in 2012 and spent two years investigating all nine bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups following claims of corruption and collusion.
The 42-page summary of Garcia’s 350-page report, released by Fifa in December, cleared both Russia and Qatar of any wrongdoing but was quickly described as a whitewash, while Garcia denounced it as “materially incomplete”.
Mr Caborn, a former Labour MP, who was an ambassador for England’s unsuccessful bid for the 2018 World Cup, said: “The Michael Garcia report should be published in full for people to make their own judgements. That is the underlying cause which is now being investigated.
“My view is that the sponsors ought to be demanding that the Garcia report is published in full, and the rest of it should take its course. We ought to maximise the information that is in the public domain. The fact Michael Garcia walked away [after the summary of his report was published] is an indictment against Fifa.”
Ex-Bradford MP Gerry Sutcliffe, who was sports minister at the time of England’s bid in 2018, said the investigation by Swiss authorities into the process was “long overdue”.
He said: “From the time we put the bid in for the 2018 World Cup and were cruelly disappointed, it became clear the whole process had been called into question.
“It is also clear this is not the first time FIFA has been involved in this kind of thing. Today’s scandal relates to events 24 years ago up to the modern day.
“People have already pleaded guilty, so it shows there is a great amount of wrong-doing within the organisation, which must mean that the presidential election must not go ahead on Friday.
“How can they run an election when there is a cloud hanging over the organisation in the way it is. I hope the election does not go ahead, and if it does that our football associations and FIFA call for more enquiries to be held.
“The good news is that it is with the right jurisdiction and the Swiss are looking at it.
“In the past Fifa have been able to hide these things under the carpet, they were above the law, but that is no longer the case, now that people at the highest level are pleading guilty.”