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Email trail as England 2018 bid eyed royal ties with Qatar

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David Bond | 13:41 UK time, Saturday, 5 March 2011

The confidential emails on England's World Cup bid obtained under freedom of information requests by the BBC contain a fascinating insight into the sorts of deals and discussions that were going on in the run-up to last year's vote in Zurich.

And while there is nothing surprising or illicit, perhaps, in the revelation that the bid team were trying to get the Duke of York to use his royal connections with the Emir of Qatar to help them win votes, it is intriguing to see that England were trying to secure a voting alliance with the eventual winners of the race for 2022.

This, of course, is supposed to be against Fifa rules and Spain and Portugal were investigated and eventually let off for forging their own deal with Qatar.

It was the biggest open secret of the simultaneous elections and even Fifa president Sepp Blatter admitted he was powerless to stop executive committee members doing reciprocal voting deals.

It actually did Spain and Portugal little good in the end but the outcome of all this is that Fifa will never run dual bidding contests again.

Qatar celebrate their winning bid for the 2022 World Cup

Qatar celebrate their winning bid for the 2022 World Cup. Photo: Getty

But what these emails show is that while England's bid team may have been accused of naivety and lacking political nous following the humiliation of their first round exit last December, they were in fact trying to do their own back room deals to try and get over the line.

So what was the strategy they came up with?

The emails show how the England bid team had spoken to Mohammed bin Hammam, the head of Asian football and vice president of Fifa, about the best way to secure his vote. This was significant because he carried at least another two Fifa members with him -Thailand's Worawi Makudi and Egypt's Harry Abou Rida.

Bin Hammam explained to England, however, that he would be told how to vote by the Emir of Qatar.

This is confirmed in a number of the emails we have obtained but, in particular in one note, sent by the British Ambassador to Qatar, John Hawkins, on 24 November 2010 to a Government official, Eddie Scanlon, and circulated widely among other civil servants.

It reads: "The Qatari EXCO [executive committee] member, Bin Hammam is KL [Kuala Lumpur] based but has made it clear throughout that he will do what the Emir tells him. I have been telling the FA for over a year thar the Emir's decision will be driven by what he judges is in the best interests of Qatar's 2022 bid."

So, what were the England bid team, the foreign office and the department for UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) trying to do to win that influence with the Emir?

The obvious channel would have been through Prince William, who as president of the FA, is the member of the Royal Family charged with dealing with affairs relating to the national game.

In protocol terms he would have been well placed to speak directly with the Emir and his two sons, one of whom, Sheikh Mohammed, was leading the Qatar World Cup bid.

Instead it was decided to try and use the Duke of York (who was a former president of the FA) which suggests England were trying to secure a voting alliance through Prince Andrew's role as a special representative for trade.

As far back as 31 March last year, an email from Foreign Office official Alan Collins to the chief executive at UKTI, Andrew Cahn, sets out the plan:

"The bid team suggested that the Royal Family might be able to help with promoting the bid.........They were particularly interested in Qatar because of the connection between the Duke of York and the Emir and in the visit the Duke of York will make to Malaysia. On their behalf I spoke to the DOY's office who said that the Duke was willing to help in both places but sought CVs of the Fifa members involved and to know the exact ask.

"The bid team sent me the CV on the Qatar Fifa member and yesterday asked me to speak urgently to the Duke's office to see if he would be willing to travel to Qatar before 23 April to speak to the Emir......In sum the bid team believe that the Emir might be persuaded to back competitors........and want to get him to commit to England before then and thus influence the vote of the Qatar Fifa member. With the Qatar vote might come three other Asia votes."

The email goes on:

"I spoke today to Amanda Thirsk in the Duke's office. She had consulted him. He was keen to help but they believed help by the Royal Family should be co-ordinated through the office of Prince William who is the President of the FA.

"They were not persuaded to get out to Doha before 23 April but the Duke is in the Gulf 4 to 11 May and, although the programme does not at present include Qatar, the Duke would be willing to drop in to see the Emir if the FCO [Foreign Office] agreed.

"This seems a sensible suggestion. He is meeting the Emir's influential wife, Sheikha Mozah, next week in London and is willing to raise the England bid and ask for the Emir's support."

And here is perhaps the crux of the story:

"In conversation the bid team told me that the Russians were signing lots of trade deals with Qatar and that might influence the Emir. The implication is that we should be doing the same."

Now, although Mr Cahn goes on to say that the UK probably didn't have the scope to do trade deals with Qatar to secure the World Cup (although he adds he will take advice on the suggestion) this is fascinating for two reasons.

Firstly it shows the England bid team were encouraging officials to try and secure support in ways beyond the pure technical and footballing arguments contained in their bid.

After all the discussions, England only received two votes as Russia won the 2018 bid

After all the discussions, England only received two votes as Russia won the 2018 bid. Photo: Getty

And secondly, it shows - rightly or wrongly - that there was a view that the Russians were doing trade deals with countries with Fifa members to win the contest for 2018.

This is alluded to elsewhere in the documents, although both UKTI and embassy officials in Qatar reject the idea that Russia is in any way better placed to secure the Emir's support via trade agreements, pointing out the already close links, via a number of British companies, with Qatar.

Shortly afterwards, an email on 13 April from England 2018 official Francesca Orpen to Alan Collins at the Foreign Office and Amanda Thirsk in the Duke of York's office, explains:

"We agree that a phone call from the Duke to the Emir before 23 April would be very helpful subject to what was said in his meeting with Sheikha Mozah last week. However we feel that a meeting between the Duke and Emir (and a small high level bid delegation) would send a strong signal about how seriously we are taking this matter......As a result we would appreciate it if in the phone call the Duke could request a meeting in early May."

The Duke of York's office told the BBC last night that he was approached by the FA but that, in the end, he didn't do any lobbying for the bid.

The state visit to the UK by the Emir on 26-28 October - and a meeting with Prince Charles - was also identified by the FA as a possible opportunity to do a deal. But while a spokesman for the Prince of Wales said a meeting did take place the countries' World Cup bids were not discussed.

The result is that while the FA had identified the need to use the Royal Family to try and win the support of Qatar, they were never able to use Princes Andrew, Charles or even William to get close to securing a deal.

In the meantime the concerns over the Russians were growing. Here, in another email from the British Ambassador John Hawkins, this time to an official called Stephen Townsend, on 23 August, he writes:

"From the commercial perspective the Russians are the most active. And it is the Russians who have been signalled to us consistently by the Qataris as the main threat to England. This was the message from Sheikh Mohammed to me and the Qatari PM made it clear to the Prime Minister that we should be "keeping a close eye on Putin".

Of course, in the end Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the election right, staying away from Zurich, playing on Fifa's concerns over the English press, and then arriving a few hours after Russia's triumph to bask in the glory as David Cameron was left embarrassed by England's two votes.

Two months earlier, in an email on 27 June, Hawkins writes to Alan Collins:

"On the Russian threat, I don't think I have much to add to what I've reported before (and told the FA direct) ie the Russians are certainly active (as the Qatari PM told the PM earlier this month "keep an eye on Putin"). And they will be using the levers they have, including commercial.

"But the Qatari/Russian relationship is not without its tensions and we can match or beat them in most areas including high level visits (of which there is more to come this Autumn) and both the energy and commercial relationships.

"However at the end of the day all of this is likely to be only of incidental importance as the Qataris will back whichever 2018 option best helps them win 2022. So, as you know, my advice has been for the FA to engage better with the Qatari FA and, ideally, come up with a deal to offer support for Qatar's 2022 bid in return for Qatari support for England 2018."

Now does any of this matter? It's three months on from the vote. England got one vote in addition to their own member, lost to Russia and Qatar shocked the football world by landing the 2022 tournament.

But what all this correspondence shows is the lengths England were prepared to go to try and win the World Cup, revealing the high level discussions which were going on in the background.

They also raise fresh questions about FIfa's bidding process and lack of transparency.

More importantly - and perhaps embarrssingly - the documents show that, whatever you think of the tactics involved in these big sporting bids, England were ultimately incapable of doing the backroom deals required.

To sum up, here's one former senior member of the bid team:

"We knew exactly what we had to do," he told me. "We weren't stupid. We could see what was going on elsewhere. But this just shows the diplomatic treacle you had to walk through to try and get anything done and why, ultimately we failed to win."


  • Comment number 1.

    So the British are just as corrupt as everyone else. Shocker.

    The only difference between Britain and the rest of the world is people here are so stupid they still believe our elite are different to the rest of the world's. Murdoch's brainwashing is working a treat.

  • Comment number 2.

    It's hypocracy all over again isn't it. We now kno wthe only reason England 2018 bid team were angry becuase other bidding teams beat them to their game and it wasn't about something the other teams were doing that they didn't do.

    In fact, we now know that England 2018 team was trying to break FIFA rule as well.

    "More importantly - and perhaps embarrssingly - the documents show that, whatever you think of the tactics involved in these big sporting bids, England were ultimately incapable of doing the backroom deals required." Yes, it also show the hypocracy of the bidding team!

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    Why on earth do we play these stupid tactics at all?

  • Comment number 5.

    David -these revelations just heap more embarassment onto the the FA and the English bid makers. Before there was some 'crumb of comfort' in that we could feel that we really were too honest and naive about the process and about what was actually required; but now we know the brutal truth, we knew only too well what was required but could not delivery it - there really has to be some FA chiefs prepared to 'fall on their swords' now, surely?

  • Comment number 6.

    Now this is something Panorama should have investigated the week before the vote rather than recycling a decade old story but better late than never I suppose.

    Good work BBC.

  • Comment number 7.

    So after the initial wave of outrage and finger-pointing at the cheating foreigners it emerges that the English bid was not the paragon of virtue their press were advertising, how...unexpected?

    Any journalist who was incapable of seeing this coming is part of a propaganda machine either by choice or incompetence. One thing was not to have proof at the time and another was to actually believe/report as facts the nonsense being disseminated by the English bid and their media supporters.

    P.s. Oh well, at least the new F1 season is almost upon us and that red team and that Spaniard must be up no good for sure, unlike the local silver wearing lads, right David Bond?

  • Comment number 8.

    "Bin Hammam explained to England, however, that he would be told how to vote by the Emir of Qatar."

    Can I now expect FIFA to suspend Qatar on the grounds of political interference ?

  • Comment number 9.

    @ no.1 spot on.

    On another note, to those in recent times that criticised FIFA, Blatter and the WC bid process.

    Care to comment today?

  • Comment number 10.


    We lost the bid, and yet here the BBC is wasting licence-feepayers' money on irrelevant FOI requests.

    Most of the content 'unearthed' is unfounded supposition and accusation that everyone is cheating, and the only substance is that if everyone else is cheating then we should, too.

  • Comment number 11.

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  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Does any of this really matter?

  • Comment number 14.

    Wow!! where is the panorama crew? Are they aware of this revelation? What does the producer and Jeremy Vine have to say. Is there an apology to the Russians? I wonder what our allies the Americans & Aussies have to say about this, after seeing whom they thought was there close ally actively seeking to do deals that possibly went against them.
    Oh what about the MOTD panel? Will they be commenting this weekend by 1st appologising for their comments following the aftermath of the loss? How does Shearer feel about being a ver low level ambassador with absolutely no influence at all, seeing that the bidding was actually being doen by high level Royal delegates, government oficials, of which the likes of him could not get close? Finally, will David Cameron apologise to the country (although he came in late to the bid process) for the errors of the FA?
    We as a country are so guilty in this whole process and with this documented evidence we deserve to be banned from football following the government involvement in this process. In short, we should be lucky to get off the hook by FiFa. Sepp Blatter has more nous to shut us up as a country, and this makes our press very questionable? The BBC was very bias in their reporting, and the only face saver they have is that this new revelation is brought to the public by their colleague.
    I sincerely do hope the press in this country learn their lessons. Its very relevant to get info out to the public, but not to be one sided. The panorama report was quite biased, and with this revelation, we can only hold our breath to what the Russian press and other nations will say. It is very clear whit big events like the wc & olympic hosting, a lot of back deals and negotiations take place, not just sporting reasons. For the panorama team to make a report with bias shows how shallow their investigation was. I hope the rest of the press do learn a lesson. Negotiations and deals are part of our society, even journalist do this when trying to get a job.

  • Comment number 15.

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  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

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  • Comment number 18.

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  • Comment number 19.

    This really does not add a lot to the story. The UKTI simply helps oil the wheels for British companies looking to invest abraod. Those companies are private and will only actually engage in a deal if they believe it in the interests of their shareholders. Russia has much more state control of major domestic firms and thus play geopolitics with another country whose large firms are also wholly or partly state owned and could thus use world cup support as part of package deal. Glad to see the Royals had enough sense not to get involved on a hiding to nothing. The UK bid team seems to have understood how the game is played and been prepared to play it (I agree they are hypocritical) but we have enough transparency in our markets and governance that it was impossible for them to play it in the same way as Russia. As far as I'm concerned let the greedy sports like Football and F1 get entangled in chasing the cash of authoritarian regimes - as Bahrain has shown it will come back to bite them.

  • Comment number 20.

    Oh dear, moderation all round, whatever happened to freedom of speech?

  • Comment number 21.


    So the British are just as corrupt as everyone else. Shocker.

    No the british were not involved. There was no British bid. Only English!

    Did the English taxpayer or English FA pay for the Royal Trip to Qatar which was meant to promote the bid?

  • Comment number 22.

    The Times ran a story last year on this and also said that The Grand Old Duke of York, had ten thousand men!

  • Comment number 23.

    Why is it that every blog that mentions the royal family is heavily moderated. Are people not allowed to comment on what these people do? If a member of the English royal family is involved in a corrput process are people wrong to question that? Did Andrew know this action was not permitted by FIFA and if he did know why was he involved in this?

  • Comment number 24.

    The current board should be sacked and voting open and public and declared before a meeting. Members should be debarred from voting for their countries and maybe even their continents. Britain should use professional negotiators rather than unreliable amateur royals. Mind you having one of Australia's top business men heading their bid (Frank Lowry) did not do them any good. In the end as with the Olympics there should be a permanent site in a country that is accessible and neutral such as Turkey. The last election should be made null and void and a fresh board appointed and then just elect the "Russian bid" with the "Qatari" to be held later, and replaced by the permanent site but in a cooler climate. There is every chance that Qatar could go the way of Tunisia and Yemen any way.

  • Comment number 25.

    It is still in the public interest to report these emails, so well done to the BBC for pursuing it. The FA represents football at all levels in England, and anyone who plays or follows the sport has a right to know if their governing body is trying to arrange voting deals which are contrary to FIFA rules.

    I'm just not surprised by it in the slightest. I haven't seen many newspapers or websites making a fuss about this in the UK, but I hope their Spanish and Portuguese counterparts have picked up on it.

  • Comment number 26.

    Many of the comments above, quite rightly, are concerned over the English bid, and its failure to secure the deal. As a sports fan though, my concern is how this highlights they way that Fifa is run, and World Cup hosting rights are awarded, which by these revelations indicate it goes to the best diplomatic countries, or those that can do the dodgy backroom deals, rather than to the best country, to deliver a successful world cup. I don't claim England had the best bid on that front, but if reports were to be believed (!) it should have been a shoot out between us and Russia! The follow up shenanigans over Qatar's success though, and talks of moving the dates because of the heat in summer, show the bidding process to be a complete sham. We shouldn't bother bidding again, it's a giant waste of time and money!

  • Comment number 27.


  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    What strikes is that Bin Hammam openly admitted that his votes were directed by the Emir of Qatar. So basically, nobody in the EXCO reads the technical reports or the bid books... and openly admits the fact. Disgusting.

  • Comment number 30.

    What is annoying to the rest of the world isn't so much that England can be corrupt but more the dishonesty and hypocrosy that so often gets displayed in this country. Whatever dubious practices were going on by all competing nations during the bidding process, these revelations reveal that the English bid team were just as willing to resort to similar practices as the rest of them. Once England had lost the bid, so many in this country were taking the moral high ground, accusing various foreign teams of corruption whilst declaring England to be oh so virtuos and honest in comparison. It is not a stance that looks too clever now.

  • Comment number 31.

    This isn't even news. Two of the bidding countries tried to make a deal during the bidding, which probably happened a lot. Report something worthwhile BBC.

  • Comment number 32.

    i think england should of got it, we shouldnt need a partnership with qatar, we created the game so we deserved it!

  • Comment number 33.


  • Comment number 34.

    post 33 is obv not british and is probably a man u fan i can tell

  • Comment number 35.

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  • Comment number 36.

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  • Comment number 37.

    post 33 is obviously not british and is certainly a liverpool fan, I can tell

  • Comment number 38.

    My understanding is that the England team players give their match fee to charity. Why don't the FA should give the England Men's Senior team to charity, too? They could formally announce that they are re-prioritising their operations and will not seek competitive results.

    In this way, it can become a marketing opportunity for the Premier League and everyone associated with the game here wins. The FA can focus and raise the profile of the good work that they do away from the glare of power, corruption and lies.

  • Comment number 39.

    So much for sport and politics not mixing! Just confirmation of what a big lie we're all living. The expense of prostituting ourselves in the bidding process, along with all the behind the scenes shenanigans, reignites doubts in my mind about who really such bids are for the benefit of. I feel relief it's all over.

    Will FIFA be suspending all these FAs for political interference? Not to mention confederations. Would any be left? Would it be left? Sepp Blatter was talking yesterday about self-discipline, respect, fair play, and the greater your power, the greater your responsibility to others. That's right, Sepp!

  • Comment number 40.

    In reply to the first post sleepingspurs "So the British are just as corrupt as everyone else. Shocker". That statment is wrong as it should have read "So the English are just as corrupt as everyone else. Shocker".Britain as yet do not have a football association. Given time with the Brit governments iterference in the sport with their plans for a Team GB olympic football team this British football association is just round the corner.Say goodby to having 4 teams competing at international level.NO TEAM GB.

  • Comment number 41.

    Surprise, surprise, the World Cup bid failed because the Englsish delegation couldn't cut the backroom deals to secure the FIFA votes.
    I cannot say I'm amazed by this.

    It does make you wonder, in terms of the Olympic bid, whether it means the "legacy" of winning the bid will result in more British jobs and services being moved away ("outsourced" as companies like to say) to those countries that supported the Olympic bid. Maybe Panorama would like to do a little digging on this one ?

    That's the key problem with these major events - politicians and businesses who have no real interest in sport, other than to use it as a means for self-aggrandisement (politicians and sporting "lords") or for promoting their business ideals, just do not care about the actual event, only the outcome and lining their own pockets.

    Don't tell me that businesses see it as a way to secure jobs in this country, because they are driven by shareholders who demand a return on their investment using the cheapest resources possible - and that isn't here.

    Makes you wonder why bother at all.

  • Comment number 42.

    Who actually really cares. The real question is in which country do most of the nations involved in the football world cup want to play the event? The answer is not Russia and definitely not Qatar..

  • Comment number 43.

    I definitely do not think that the logical assumption here is that the English negotiation team is just as corrupt as anyone else, nor that they do not know how to negotiate. Obviously, the Qataris and the Russians won their respective bids, and it would seem they were able to strike a deal. It could be that what happened between them could simply not happen between the English and the Qatari, the reason being not a lack of negotiation skills, but a lack of will to go to certain lengths (or depths) on the English side. It seems wrong to assume merely that the English cannot negotiate - rather, they might not had been able to offer the things that the Russians eventually offered, not because they did not have them, but because on the scale of general nastiness, they were just too much.

    If I was English, then in the light of these documents, I'd be almost happy that my team scored only two points in these selections - because these points seem to be awarded on the bases of an ability to conclude underhand deals. As yourselves: whatever was it that the Russians did to earn the deal with Qatar, would you really like your team and government to do the same?

    The conclusion obviously is all such future dealing must be made transparent. The whole process is merely an expensive exercise in hypocrisy.

  • Comment number 44.

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  • Comment number 45.

    I forgot to add.... that the World Cup would therefore switch between France & Germany - (who have hosted WC & Euro too many times already) because they have a rather delightful High-Speed Railway service... and a hell of a lot of decent Hotels.

    Why not host the Euro Tournament in Australia (or Japan - where they also have fast trains) Let's face it - many English teams go for a pre-season Sun-Fest in foreign climes without complaints... just to wear themselves into a knackered state just when when the season begins.

    I think I'll do an "Owen Hargreaves" and call in Sick tomorrow

  • Comment number 46.

    Comment 44 (mine) was removed... for reasons unknown... perhaps I misspelled something that might have been mistaken for something else.

    Lets give it my Editor.... revised copy...

    The FA and most of England were wide-eyed and seemingly upset. FIFA already had any other country targeted, to transport the World Cup around the globe at their pleasure. The (pre-determined) winning Nations were a foregone conclusion in MY book... and many other right-minded people too. We were proved right. So... all "bids" were a waste of time, stupid fanfare - and represented a bit of a legal problem.

    FIFA need to be hit where it hurts most. I would love to see Russia declare their assets as illegally gained and semi-graciously withdraw from hosting the 2018 event. Then see Qatar declare that 2022, in retrospect, was an impossible dream because of certain "tolerance" matters.

  • Comment number 47.

    "The emails show how the England bid team had spoken to Mohammed bin Hammam, the head of Asian football and vice president of Fifa, about the best way to secure his vote. This was significant because he carried at least another two Fifa members with him -Thailand's Worawi Makudi and Egypt's Harry Abou Rida.

    Bin Hammam explained to England, however, that he would be told how to vote by the Emir of Qatar"

    So this effectively meant that the Emir of Qatar had control over THREE of the votes as he decided Bin Hammam vote and Bin Hamman decided 'Thailand's Worawi Makudi and Egypt's Harry Abou Rida' votes.

    Surely it should be left for each Fifa member to deicde who to vote for themselves?

  • Comment number 48.

    "Tolerance" = Not being supportive of some public or even private displays of practicing preparatory efforts of successful reproductive techniques after imbibing intoxicating liquids.

    World Cup 2026.... the winner is....TIBET

  • Comment number 49.

    I haven't read all of this. I can't be bothered as it has been established for a long time that the system is corrupt, but doesn't the Emir deciding who the vice president of FIFA should vote for break FIFA rules on political figures from being banned from making decision on the sport?

  • Comment number 50.

    post 37. is obv a man u fan he has no sense at all and believes everything he reads in the paper all i have to say about this person is he must of had a bad upbringing

  • Comment number 51.

    Why wont you publish my criticism of the Royals involvement in the inadequate negotiations for staging the World cup or are you afraid of Lese Majeste? Well I live in Australia so its not a problem for me your just scared!

  • Comment number 52.

    Then you must be opposed to my suggestion that having an new election that is open and a fresh panel be appointed, a fresh election held for Russia's result and a permanent home be found for the world cup in somewhere accessible to all after that (as should happen for the Olympics. Actually one site for all International; events and evn transcontinental events such as the Asian, European and Americas cup. Maybe a large Island in the Indian Ocean .

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    England's 2018 bid: A Foyal Ruck up, all in all.

  • Comment number 55.

    Quite clear then that far too much British money was wasted on this farce.


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