Ian Monk: World Cup bid balancing act

Should England take greater pride in its status as the home of football, the world's greatest sporting entertainment business, or in its robustly free press?

Ian Monk
Ian Monk

With the country's bid to host the 2018 World Cup apparently foundering on the rocks of endless media investigation, there seems little scope to tick any imaginary box marked both.

Media and the 'beautiful game' are on a violent collision course and it looks as if there can be only one winner. Either, to the pride and delight of millions, we can host the World Cup for the first time in 52 years. Or we can rejoice in our free and unfettered media for their repeated exposes of the rot and corruption they believe to be inherent in the FIFA bid process.

Soccer fans will say a globally televised World Cup would bring a national feel-good factor, an economic boost and the heritage and infrastructure benefits that so dominate the comms around the Olympics.

Media defenders will presumably praise the paper that scuttled the career of England's bid leader, Lord Triesman, by publishing the tittle-tattle of a female former employee. They may applaud the Sunday Times' investigation, involving subterfuge and entrapment, revealing FIFA officials whose votes might be for sale.

They can deride the efforts of the bid team to lobby the BBC to call off a Panorama programme which the hype suggests contains more damaging revelations. Bring it on, many may cry, in praise of the fearless investigative brilliance of our media.

How much anyway is PR smoke and mirrors? Maybe the bid team believes it has lost fatal leeway to Russia and Spain and Portugal and is blaming the media in advance to crisis-manage the fall-out.

Maybe the Panorama programme contains nothing of import. It wouldn't be the first time the BBC has promoted a non-investigation on to its news agenda.

The irony is that football drives media sales like few other phenomena. World Cups boost circulation, audience and ad sales. It's an unusually delicate balancing act between power and responsibility for media and PROs. Come on England.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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