Indictment against FIFA Officials

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 10:28 am on 28th May 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 10:28 am, 28th May 2015

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer, and indeed for coming to the House this morning to answer the urgent question. Football, as he says, is our national game. It is the most played and watched sport in the United Kingdom and worldwide. The whole House will share his concerns following the events of yesterday. Under the failed leadership of Sepp Blatter, FIFA has again let down fans across Britain and across the world.

Given that, what discussions is my right hon. Friend having with the home nation associations in relation to the unfolding scandal, which, as is clear from the charges brought against FIFA officials in the United States, reveals a pattern of corruption that has existed over decades? Does he think, as seems obvious to everyone except Sepp Blatter, that the election of a new president of FIFA should not now go ahead this week? What steps will he take in conjunction with the home nations to ensure that the election does not take place and that FIFA has the opportunity to elect a president who can rid it of corruption and lead the organisation though what is undoubtedly the worse scandal in its history? Can he assure football fans across the country that his Department will make reform of FIFA a top priority so that the organisation serves football worldwide and does not exist merely to line the pockets of its officials?

Although I doubt that my right hon. Friend has yet read the 161-page indictment preferred by the US Attorney General, he will know from his work on the Select Committee in the previous Parliament that the English Football Association made an unsuccessful bid for the 2018 World cup, which cost something in the region of £19 million. The bid had the backing of His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales and David Beckham, among others, but it received only two votes. What investigations does he now intend to carry out to examine whether the bid failed due to bribery and corruption on the part of FIFA officials? Will he discuss with the English Football Association the steps that can now be taken to recover the £19 million that was wasted and that could have gone to grassroots community football in this country? Can he say what steps the Government will now take to recover any money they wasted on the failed bid? Does he think, as no doubt many Members do, that the bidding process for hosting the World cup in 2018 and 2022 should now be reopened?

At least some of the criminal behaviour that founds the US indictment and the criminal investigation by the Swiss Attorney General made public yesterday is alleged to have taken place in the United Kingdom. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had overnight with our Attorney General and the Home Secretary as to whether a criminal investigation should be commenced in this country and, if appropriate, charges brought? Given the scale of the corruption revealed by The Sunday Times and by “Panorama” as long ago as 2010, why has no action been taken to date? Can he assure the House that a full criminal investigation of any unlawful behaviour in this country will now be launched?

Finally, given the importance of this issue to the whole country, or at least to those of us who follow the beautiful game, will my right hon. Friend undertake to return to the House next week to update hon. Members on further developments and to ensure that Parliament is kept fully informed of developing events in relation to a corruption scandal that affects something that is at the absolute core of our national life?