KEIR RADNEDGE in SAO PAULO: Greg Dyke found himself confronting FIFA president Sepp Blatter in defence of the British media here on the eve of the world federation’s congress.
Dyke, chairman of the Football Association and no stranger to finding himself a media target in his high-profile broadcasting career, took Blatter to task over the veteran Swiss administrator’s outspoken attack on UK coverage of the Mohamed Bin Hammam corruption scandal.
The Sunday Times, over the past fortnight, has raised heavily-documented allegations that Bin Hammam, disgraced former president of the Asian confederation, had used a $5m slush fund to seek covert support for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid.
The Qataris have denied any wrongdoing as a two-year investigation by FIFA’s ethis prosecutor Michael Garcia draws to a close.
But that did not stop Blatter, earlier this week here, from raising accusations of racism in the coverage.
Blatter attended European federation’ UEFA’s conference in Sao Paulo and faced a double salvo of criticism, first from Dutchman Michael Van Praag – who urged him to quit – and then from Dyke, former director-general of the BBC.
Dyke said later: “What Mr Blatter said on Monday I found offensive so I said: ‘Could I say I found the term racist as totally unacceptable. I have read the articles in The Sunday Times in great detail.
“The allegations being made have nothing to do with racism. They are allegations about corruption in FIFA. They need to be properly investigated and properly answered.
“‘We need to know from Mr Garcia whether he was aware of the material in The Sunday Times before it was published and, if not, whether he will extend his investigation to consider these allegations.
“‘Many of us are deeply troubled by your reaction to these allegations. It’s time to stop attacking the messenger and understand the message.'”
Dyke said Blatter responded only that the overall issue would be addressed tomorrow in Congress.
On the issue of whether Blatter should continue as FIFA president next year, Dyke insisted that a decision on the FA’s stance was not a matter for him personally but for the full FA board.
However he barely stopped shy of insisting that Blatter should go.
Dyke said: “It would have to be a decision made by the FA board not by me but we all accept that four years ago he said he was standing for one more term and the least we want is to have a proper competiton so people have a choice.
“Mr Blatter said: ‘We at FIFA are under attack,’ but he was basically saying he was under attack from the British media.
“Among the British public. without any doubt. the brand FIFA is serially damaged and that’s the same through large parts of Europe. Whether it is in other parts of the world I don’t know.”
Asked for his personal view based on his own corporate experience, Dyke concluded: “I think in these circumstances when eight members – a third – of the executive committe have resigned through corruption allegations and then there are serious allegations in The Sunday Times . . . then it makes it very difficult for a chief executive to continue in most circumstances.”
Similary critical of Blatter was David Gill, the former Manchester United chief executive who is a member of the UEFA executive committee.
Gill called the racism remarks “totally unacceptable”.