The papers: A football fiasco and EU stew?

The ugly scandal surrounding "the beautiful game" is a common thread through all Monday's papers.

The press seek to dissect the Sunday Times revelations suggesting bribery could have played a part in the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

Authorities in the Gulf state vehemently deny wrongdoing or any links between monies paid to Fifa executive council members and its 2022 bid campaign.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sepp Blatter has been at the helm of Fifa since 1998.

The Guardian leads with the story, noting increasing calls from "key figures" in football to rerun the 2022 vote.

In the paper, Owen Gibson writes that if the "previously unthinkable" happens and the contest for the tournament in eight years' time is re-opened, the Americans (runners up to Qatar) would be in pole position as their bid relied on no new stadium building.

The Daily Telegraph quotes former director of public prosecutions Lord MacDonald, who calls Fifa - the game's governing body - "a cesspit" and suggests that as the alleged bribes were paid in dollars the US Justice Department would have jurisdiction over any investigation.

In its leader column, the Telegraph echoes most papers in calling for "root and branch reform" of Fifa, but notes: "If a tree was as rotten as Fifa clearly is, it would need not pruning, but felling."

In The Times, columnist Matthew Syed asks "is anybody shocked?" by the latest story.

He details an unedifying series of what could be seen as "inducements" to vote used in tournament bids, and theorises that the Qatar campaign "was never simply about a love of football or nation branding" but was "part of a sophisticated campaign to maximise the probability of western support" in the event of a war in the region.

The Sun is one of many British newspapers whose leader columns call for Fifa president Sepp Blatter to resign.

The paper says the gleaming World Cup trophy has been tarnished and "stolen from the fans".

Writing in the Daily Mail, Peter McKay says the disapproval of governments will not stop Fifa from doing what "suits themselves".

He notes "Bribery and corruption are common the world over - blatant in some places and subtle in others.

"Fifa could be dissolved tomorrow... but someone will always find a way of bribing the World Cup to their wretched shores."

The Daily Star suggests the debacle over the vote could reignite England's claims to staging the 2018 tournament.

'Building bridges'

There is another round of votes being canvassed which is causing Fleet Street just as much concern as the World Cup - the race to become the new president of the European Commission.

The Sun reports that David Cameron is against the selection of Jean-Claude Juncker, a favoured choice of most of Europe's centre right parties, who make a formidable voting bloc in the European parliament.

In a play on one of its iconic headlines, the paper captions the story "Stick it up your Juncker", noting that the Luxembourger is "one of the last supporters of a United States of Europe".

The Daily Express calls Mr Juncker a "EU fanatic". It says Mr Cameron's opposition to his candidacy is echoed by Italian PM Matteo Renzi.

The Guardian profiles Mr Juncker - who as Luxembourg's PM for 19 years, was one of Europe's longest serving leaders.

In his own words he says his "talent for building bridges" makes him ideal for the EU's top job.

"I am someone who is fanatical about seeking consensus," he is quoted as saying.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Jean-Claude Juncker's candidacy enjoys the support of Angela Merkel

In its analysis, the paper notes that Mr Cameron has not enough European allies to veto the appointment.

But it notes the bigger battle is brewing between the European Parliament and national governments over who has the "defining say" in choosing the new president.

The Daily Mail's comment column says that even if Mr Juncker is not appointed, the rival candidates "all believe in the absolute supremacy of the EU over sovereign member governments".

It says the process will be "another EU stitch-up".

The Daily Telegraph praises Mr Cameron's call for other European leaders to "heed the views expressed in the ballot box" of the recent European elections.

That's a view that is echoed by Tony Blair, on the front page of The Times.

The paper says the former PM will use a keynote speech to call on EU heads to "think carefully" about where the community is going, and "reconnect with the concerns of its citizens".

Older country

With only 11 months until the general election, speculation over what will be in the parties' manifestos is still a major newspaper preoccupation.

The Independent's lead story says Labour is considering pledging a major increase in NHS spending as a way of winning voters over.

It says a spending increase could be funded by putting a penny on employer and employee national insurance contributions (NICS), or setting a slower target for reducing the budget deficit, or by making a phased-in NHS budget increase, paid for by increases in GDP.

The party told the paper that "no firm decisions" had been taken on the NHS, but says the idea has been floated by Frank Field and Jon Cruddas, who are leading Labour's policy review.

In its editorial, The Independent says that any new ringfenced NICS rise is unlikely to keep pace with soaring demands for NHS services as "we become an older country at a faster rate than ever before".

It also worries that extra cash could merely "stand in for urgently needed reforms to the health service".

This is a theme taken up in the Financial Times, which reports that some common procedures cost five times as much to perform at some NHS hospitals as at others.

The paper's analysis suggests that if all hospitals could perform at the levels of the most efficient, the service would save £100m a year - enough to fund 4,000 nursing salaries.

It quotes former health secretary Alan Milburn, now a consultant in the industry, who says "the truth about today's world is that doing more with less is the new normal, and healthcare has no option but to catch up".

It is a view shared by Ian Birrell, who writes an opinion piece in The Guardian.

He says the service must embrace private sector involvement, as well as efficiencies, in order to find the £30bn more that the NHS is expected to cost by 2021.

"It has to evolve or face a painful death," is his stark assessment of the health service.

Elsewhere, the Daily Mirror highlights one of the challenges the NHS is facing already - finding enough doctors for poorer areas of the country.

It says a Royal College of General Practitioners report has found "shocking discrepancies" in provision of family doctors around the UK.

The paper illustrates this by saying north Devon has 60 GPs for every 100,000 patients, but Slough in Berkshire has only 22.


From the living - to the dead: The Daily Telegraph reports that the HS2 rail project has acquired a prominent new opponent.

Image caption The 18th century graveyard of St James' Gardens, next to Euston Station, is on the route of HS2

The paper reports that the Archbishop's Council, one of the Church of England's most influential bodies, has written to MPs stating its opposition to the high-speed line.

The churchmen are worried about desecration of churchyards that lie along the proposed route.

They want new legislation to "give greater protection" to human remains that will have to be exhumed if HS2 goes ahead.

The Telegraph reports that the line will pass through three consecrated burial grounds, with 30,000 graves needing to be exhumed through the expansion of Euston Station in London alone.

Other significant exhumations will be needed at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire and in the Park Street area of Birmingham.

None of the sites has been used for burial for more than a century.

The report notes the Church is not "opposing HS2 per se" but is seeking changes to the bill that would allow the project to proceed.

The Telegraph says the Church's petition joins those of notable landowners, including the Earl Spencer and Lord Rothschild.

If on Sunday there seemed to be a breakthrough in the case of Meriam Ibrahim - the Sudanese woman facing the death sentence for allegedly renouncing Islam - today the story is less clear.

The Times is one of a number of papers which report that hopes for a quick release of Ms Ibrahim, who has given birth to her second child in custody, are fading as Sudanese officials issue "contradictory statements".

A foreign ministry spokesman said any release could take place only after an appeal which could last two months.

The paper notes one of Ms Ibrahim's lawyers has called on President Obama to intervene in the case.

But it notes that foreign involvement has sparked something of a backlash in the Sudanese press, with one government-linked paper even claiming that David Cameron's statement calling for Ms Ibrahim to be released was a "plot" to "distract voters from his low popularity".

In its leader column, The Times calls for western governments to keep up the pressure on Sudan to free Ms Ibrahim.

The paper adds that the death sentence in her case puts Sudan "beyond the pale of civilisation" and Ms Ibrahim's immediate release without conditions would be a "first step" for the nation to redeem itself in the eyes of the world.

The Guardian speaks to Ms Ibrahim's lawyer, who tells the paper that "Nothing has changed, Meriam is still in prison".

He says reports that she would be freed soon were just "political statements" made because of international pressure.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Rob Crilly says that Islam and the Sharia court system should not be blamed for Ms Ibrahim's plight.

He says the problem lies with men using religious laws to pursue vendettas or seek personal gain.

"Shouting and screaming at Khartoum to get it to ditch its [apostasy] law will get us nowhere," he adds.

"The problem is not Islam, it is the brothers and fathers prepared to take its name in vain."

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