I warmly congratulate the Secretary of State on taking up his new responsibilities. There was a time before he was Chair of the Select Committee, but none of us can remember that any more, so we know that we have somebody who knows his onions on these matters. I join him in the tribute that he made to The Sunday Times and that Stephen Phillips made to “Panorama”. Some of this would not be coming out now had it not been for that investigative journalism.
Yesterday the whole world saw that beneath the mask the beautiful game has a very, very ugly face. Can anyone be in any doubt at all that FIFA is rotten to the core and needs swift and wholesale reform? What is particularly galling is that the value of the World cup is not created by FIFA but by the many millions of loyal fans around the world. Football belongs to the mums and dads taking their children to their first match and to the youngsters lining their bedroom walls with posters, not to the fat cats who have creamed off millions of pounds for themselves. Is it not inconceivable that Sepp Blatter should continue in post now that his own election as president in 2011 is under investigation by the Swiss authorities?
What investigations have been undertaken in this country into whether British nationals and British banks have been involved? Is the Secretary of State absolutely confident that British authorities have not been rather reluctant to investigate seriously? Is it not a bit embarrassing that it has ended up being the Swiss and the Americans who are bringing this to light rather than the British? Is he absolutely confident that no licence fee money has found its way into corrupt hands? Did any of the sponsors who are now, very reluctantly, raising their voices knowingly provide money that was used for a bribe?
Does the Secretary of State share our concerns about the 2022 World cup? Matches will be played indoors in temperatures exceeding 40° C. Hundreds of workers have already died building the stadiums—an estimated 62 per match that will be played. Human rights are systematically being abused. Should not Qatar immediately suspend its kafala visa system for migrants working on the stadiums and improve all workers’ conditions? What representations have the Government made to Qatar on the detention of BBC journalists investigating human rights abuses there?
Now that Visa, McDonald’s, Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Adidas, Hyundai and UEFA have all finally raised major concerns about the 2018 and 2022 competitions, should not the bidding rounds be reopened? If not, is it not time for the major football associations of the world to consider creating alternative competitions for those dates?