On the face of it, the Mail on Sunday revelations about Lord Triesman, former head of the England 2018 bid and chairman of the Football Association, could have been the death knell for the nation’s hopes of staging the World Cup in 2018.
Coming only a couple of days after a well-orchestrated delivery of the bid book by David Beckham, the scandal shook the bid to the core just when it looked back on an even keel.
In-fighting and the lack of coherent messaging seemed to taint the bid in its early stages, but the arrival of former Evening Standard and News of the World journalist Simon Greenberg, who spent a number of years at Chelsea, has had a significant impact.
All of a sudden, the stories of discord seemed to go away and England’s compelling case for hosting the World Cup dominated its messaging.
But the departure of Lord Triesman and the timing of the revelations may actually ahve worked in England’s favour.
London’s 2012 Olympic bid suffered a major setback when a Panorama programme questioned the integrity of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but it recovered impressively, remaining focused on the story it wanted to tell.
The fact that the story came out so far in advance of the Panorama programme gave the bid time to heal the wounds it had caused. By the same token, Paris hardly had any time to recover when damning reports of criticism by President Jacques Chirac came to light.
But the England 2018 board and the Football Association must be congratulated for acting so swiftly once the revelations became public.
Clearly Lord Triesman, in resigning from the England 2018 bid but initially remaining as chairman of the FA did not wish to sever his ties with football’s governing body entirely, but it was absolutely the right thing for the FA to ensure he departed.
Lord Triesman may have been justified in criticising the manner in which the Mail on Sunday obtained the revelations through a form of entrapment, but as new Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said quite justifiably on Monday morning, anyone in public life has to be absolutely circumspect when making any comments of a potentially controversial nature.
It may be a sad state of affairs that people in public office cannot even trust people they consider to be friends not to sell private conversations to the newspapers, but that is the nature of the 24 hour media world in which we now live.
Greenberg and his team, together with those from the Football Association, presumably, have ensured that what could be an ongoing saga was acted upon with such clinical determination that FIFA will be reassured just how slick and impressive the organisation of the World Cup in eight years time would be.