I beg to move,
That this House has considered the UK’s relationship with FIFA.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. At the start of my remarks, I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) to her position, for the first of what I am sure will be many sterling debates and sterling performances as the Minister for sport. I congratulate her on her appointment.
The purpose of this debate is to consider the UK’s relationship with FIFA: not just the English Football Association but the football associations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; not just the relationship between the football bodies and FIFA, but FIFA’s relationship with the Government and any other UK commercial interests, too. The timing of this debate has undoubtedly been influenced by the dramatic events that unfolded in Zurich just over a week ago, with the arrests of 14 FIFA officials in an operation led by the FBI and carried out by the Swiss investigatory authorities. It poses the question of what our response should be to those dramatic events and to the new timetable for the rest of this year, now that Sepp Blatter has announced that he will be stepping down from the FIFA presidency. In my opening remarks, I will address how we got to our current position and the responses to the crisis that the UK should consider.
The events in Zurich come as no surprise to people who have followed the FIFA saga for a number of years. Earlier this year, I became a founder member of a new international campaign group, New FIFA Now, to push for change and reform in FIFA by forming an alliance of politicians, business people and people in the media to create external pressure on FIFA. In April, New FIFA Now published the results of a global survey of well over 10,000 football fans from across the world: 97% of respondents had no confidence in the leadership of FIFA, and 69% of respondents felt that there should be a full and open inquiry and investigation into the allegations of wrongdoing at FIFA.
In 2011, when I was a member of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, the Committee considered matters of concern regarding the World cup bidding process completed in 2010 that awarded the rights to host the tournaments in 2018 and 2022. In that debate I used parliamentary privilege to raise concerns that had been brought to the Committee’s attention in evidence submitted by The Sunday Times Insight team. That evidence alleged that two FIFA executive committee members, Issa Hayatou and Jacques Anouma, received $1.5 million in payments to support the Qatar bid for the World cup, linked to their votes in the process to award the rights to host the tournament. Lord Triesman came to the same Select Committee hearing to make his own allegations about approaches that he had received during the World cup bidding process from other FIFA officials who had solicited either bribes or favours from him. He named Mr Makudi from Thailand, Jack Warner, Nicolás Leoz and Ricardo Teixeira.
It is interesting to note what has happened to some of those individuals over the past four years. Issa Hayatou was reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee for receiving improper payments from sports marketing company International Sport and Leisure in relation to the awarding of rights. Jacques Anouma was accused of receiving bribes by Phaedra al-Majid, the Qatari whistleblower who worked on the Qatar World cup bid and is now living in the United States after making her allegations about that bid. Jack Warner was involved in the scandal over the attempt to buy votes in the FIFA presidential election, and he is on Interpol’s wanted list following a request for him to co-operate with the FBI investigation that came to such a dramatic conclusion with the issuing of arrest warrants in Zurich just over a week ago. Similarly, a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Nicolás Leoz. Ricardo Teixeira, the former head of the Brazilian football association, who was named by Lord Triesman, was removed from his position in world football after being found guilty of receiving bribes that, again, were linked to the ISL sports marketing corruption case, in which payments were made to FIFA officials in relation to their support on contracts awarded for World cup broadcast footage and World cup marketing rights. Ricardo Teixeira, along with the previous president of FIFA, João Havelange, allegedly received $41 million-worth of payments in relation to ISL.
My hon. Friend is making a brilliant speech, rightly showing how the culture of corruption at FIFA, which he identified so early, has embedded itself over many years. By mentioning Mr Havelange, he points to its rising up the organisation—I hope he will discuss how that has transpired. Does he share my view that not only is FIFA rotten from top to bottom but that the response last week from Mr Warner in particular was a remarkable reaction to the revelations?
My hon. Friend is right. We are talking about a widespread, systemic failure of an organisation—widespread corruption—and the role of Jack Warner in this is key. He has said that he has handed to the FBI an “avalanche” of evidence, which includes references to Sepp Blatter himself. I think it is highly likely that Sepp Blatter will be asked to co-operate with both the FBI investigation and the Swiss authorities’ criminal investigation into the World cup bidding process.
My hon. Friend’s concerns about the systemic corruption within FIFA have been known for some time, but does he share my concerns about why the Football Association decided in 2010 to bid for the World cup in 2018? If FIFA is rotten to the core, why was British football having anything to do with this matter?
I agree with my right hon. Friend. It has been known for a long time that there are systemic problems within the organisation of FIFA. The England World cup bid, although it was commendable and carried out with a degree of vigour by all who took part, was always doomed to failure, largely for the reasons set out to the Select Committee by Lord Triesman: for their necessary support, members of the FIFA executive committee wanted to be rewarded in whatever way they saw fit. The allegation that Lord Triesman made about Jack Warner was that he solicited bribes so that he could personally profit from his role within football, which is also the case with most of the other allegations: people sought to profit personally from their positions in world football. The FBI has gone through that in some detail in its report.
I understand what my hon. Friend says: the bid was doomed to failure, which we can see even without 20/20 hindsight. The broader issue is why on earth the FA had anything to do with this organisation. It was well understood that FIFA was a corrupt organisation, and in a sense our own footballing organisation, which is not without its own problems, as we are well aware, is now complicit after trying to secure the 2018 World cup. Indeed, any talk now of a World cup being awarded to us at some point in the near future without cleaning the stables seems to be entirely wide of the mark.
We have seen allegations of corruption going back for almost the entirety of Sepp Blatter’s presidency of FIFA, and before that, too. The process that concluded in 2010 for the rights to host the tournaments in 2018 and 2022 was on a previously unseen level. The Football Association may have been aware of some of the murky waters it was getting into in bidding for the World cup but nevertheless thought that it could make a good, strong case. The fact that England had the strongest technical bid but received only two votes is testimony to the fact that footballing grounds were not the key defining factor for the members of the executive committee who voted. It should also be noted that seven of the 22 people who voted on where the World cup should be played have already had to resign from their positions in world football due to corruption, and others are still under investigation.
I give way to the hon. Gentleman.
Order. Before Mr Campbell speaks, may I gently point out that seven Back-Bench colleagues wish to speak in this debate, and the more interventions that are taken, the less time there is for everybody? But let us hear from Mr Gregory Campbell.
Thank you, Mr Streeter, for that clarification. I will be brief.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) on securing a very timely debate. He talks about “murky waters”. Does he agree that, somewhat closer to home, we have the issue of the Football Association of Ireland apparently using £5 million that was initially a loan from FIFA, but then became a donation, to help to rebuild the stadium in Dublin?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Again, that is a very unusual payment that was received by the FAI. It was kind of “cash for no questions”—for not seeking to make a complaint against FIFA because of the incident involving Thierry Henry’s handball in the World cup qualifying match against Ireland. It just shows the extraordinary way in which FIFA works that these sorts of irregular payment were made.
Before I move on to look at some of the issues that we have to address, another good example of FIFA’s behaviour has been provided by the recent revelations around the unusual $10 million payment that was made, linked to the South Africa World cup. A request was made for $10 million to support football projects relating to the African diaspora living in the Caribbean. That money was to be paid by the South Africans. They did not want to pay it, so instead FIFA took the money out of the budget that would have gone to South Africa as the host nation for the World cup. It would seem that that money was then paid to officials in the Caribbean, particularly Jack Warner. We now know from the evidence that he has supplied that he used that money personally, and potentially laundered some of it through a supermarket chain in Trinidad.
All that prompts some questions. Who sanctioned those payments? FIFA said that it did not know anything about them, but it now looks like FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke did know about them. Why were they sanctioned? Clearly, there was absolutely no follow-up on how the money was spent—whether it was ever received by the people who were intended to receive it and whether it was ever used to benefit football development projects in the Caribbean, which was allegedly what the money was for, unusual though such a payment was. That is another reason we should be angry: not only have people have sought to make themselves rich from their positions in football and been greedy in doing so, but they have done it by taking money away from football development projects that should have been there to support some of the poorest people in the world by improving their life chances and access to sporting facilities. It is the poor who have been exploited by FIFA’s greedy officials.
The allegations have run for a number of years now. The allegations that I set out earlier, which were made in front of the Select Committee in 2011, were given pretty short shrift at the time by FIFA, which felt that there were no grounds for further investigation. Under pressure, FIFA then commissioned its own report, led by an American attorney, Michael Garcia, to look at wrongdoing in the World cup bidding process. Members will be well aware of what happened to that report. It was always a very limited report—Michael Garcia had no legal power to subpoena witnesses or evidence and he was very restricted in what he could do. Nevertheless, he was supposedly very critical of the culture of entitlement that existed in the FIFA executive committee, and he argued that it needed wholesale reform. FIFA’s response to that investigation was to seek to suppress the report entirely. Instead, it published a summary, which the author of the report said bore very little relation to the thrust of the arguments or the serious charges that he had made.
One or two other key issues also have to be considered, particularly relating to the World cup in Qatar. Many people were surprised that Qatar was chosen. The country had no football tradition or football facilities and was bidding on the premise of hosting the World cup tournament in the summer. During the 2014 World cup in Brazil, the average daytime temperature in Qatar was over 40° every day. Many people thought that the bid was clearly not a serious starter. However, there are now other serious concerns. First, there are concerns about the consequences for world sport—including our own football leagues and indeed all European sporting leagues involving winter sports, not just football—of moving the Qatar World cup to the winter. Secondly, there are the real concerns raised about the workers in Qatar who are building the World cup facilities, including many men from India and Nepal.
Reports have suggested that more than 1,400 workers have already lost their lives, and the campaign Playfair Qatar has suggested that 4,000 people could lose their lives building not only the football stadiums themselves but all the support facilities needed by Qatar to host the World cup. This is a matter of genuine concern. We know that when London hosted the Olympic games there was incredibly close scrutiny of the rights, including labour rights, and conditions of the people working here. Similar rights and conditions should apply to people working on projects linked to the World cup in Qatar. I was also very disturbed to read reports that, because of the kafala system that operates in Qatar, many workers have very few individual rights. Some Nepalese workers were not even allowed to return home to Nepal to attend the funerals of family members killed in the recent earthquakes. FIFA should be doing a lot more about this as well. We also have a role in asking why more is not being done by FIFA and the international community to insist on higher standards of rights in Qatar.
The World cup bidding process was flawed; it was corrupted because of the actions of people involved in it. The best thing for football now would be to order a rerun of the contest to host the tournament, inviting everyone who was part of that contest to rebid for the chance to host the World cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022, and then let us stand by a new process that is open, honest and clear. If that does not happen and FIFA does not do it, I believe we will end up having to reconsider whether those tournaments are played anyway, because of the charges arising from the Swiss criminal investigation into that World cup bidding process. It is notable that the Swiss legal authorities are the only people outside the most senior people at FIFA to have seen the Garcia report, and that, having read it, they have opened a criminal investigation into the matters covered by the report.
I will try to be as brief as I can, Mr Streeter, to allow colleagues to participate in the debate, but there are some serious questions about what the UK’s response to this situation should be. The first is about the Serious Fraud Office. In a debate in the main Chamber in December 2014, I raised the role of the SFO and I have corresponded with SFO officials on a number of occasions about their jurisdiction to act. FIFA clearly has commercial operations linked to the United Kingdom, as it sells broadcast rights to its football matches and tournaments here, so I believe it falls within the general jurisdiction of the SFO to examine matters relating to FIFA.
We know that the SFO can look at matters relating to the England World cup bid. It has been widely reported that a secret dossier was compiled by the Football Association that looked into the World cup bidding process, including the movements of members of FIFA’s executive committee and what other bid teams were doing. It has also been reported in the media that the FA has given the SFO full access to all the documents relating to the World cup bidding process, including those that have not been published before. Will the Minister ask her colleague, the Solicitor General, whether the SFO can now make a statement about exactly what actions it has taken, whether it intends to consider opening its own investigation into FIFA, and whether it can at least confirm that it is fully co-operating with the investigations being led by the FBI and the Swiss authorities? We should at least be clear about the role that the SFO is playing, because it clearly has a role. I believe that it has a role to play in launching its own investigation into FIFA, but it certainly has a role in supporting other investigations that are happening.
We should also continue to apply the pressure on FIFA’s major commercial sponsors—companies such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Visa. Finally, in the last few weeks those sponsors have started to speak up about the need for reform, and suggested that without reform they will withdraw their commercial sponsorship. Many people believe that conversations behind closed doors early last week led to Sepp Blatter reconsidering his position in world football because of that pressure from commercial sponsors. They have a role to play in keeping that pressure on FIFA, as do our FA and the other major football associations around the world, including UEFA. The commercial strength of football in those countries, led by the football fans in those countries who pay to buy the merchandise, subscribe to TV channels to watch football being played and travel to watch matches live in stadiums is important. It is the money of fans in countries such as the UK that puts the money into world football that FIFA benefits from, and it will be the threat of the withdrawal of that funding by nations boycotting FIFA tournaments and by commercial sponsors ending their support that leads to real pressure for change.
We should not believe that, just because Sepp Blatter announced last week his intention to resign the FIFA presidency, there will be an immediate change in FIFA. FIFA has confirmed—it was reported by the BBC this morning—that the timetable set is that the FIFA congress will meet on 16 December to elect a new president. From now until then—for the remainder of this year—Sepp Blatter will be there, pulling the strings and managing the process of “reform”. He will be seeking to ensure that the next president of FIFA is someone who will look after him in the same way that he, for so many years, looked after Havelange, covering his tracks and mistakes and protecting the old guard. That is what we are seeing again now. It is like the dying days of some old Soviet republic, where the old guard are rallying round each other and trying to save the whole operation, and it cannot be allowed to happen. The external pressure that we can exert by debating matters relating to FIFA in this Chamber, and by questioning sponsors and football associations, is essential to keep the pressure on FIFA.
I have a final question for my hon. Friend the Minister. I know that she has already written to the Sports Ministers across the European Union. Will she use her offices to keep the pressure up on the Sports Ministers and Governments of other European nations to question their local football associations? We can work together to ensure that pressure on FIFA from Governments and the media continues until there is real change and reform. I believe that that change should include Sepp Blatter’s immediate removal as president, and an interim team of respected people in world sport should be brought in. Those people do not have to be from football. People from outside can come in to clean out the yard and lead a real reform process and set in place proper elections that involve people who are not tainted by the corruption of the past.
I believe that things will get a lot worse for FIFA before they get better. The FBI and Swiss investigations will go right through the organisation and expose any wrongdoing and incorrect payments. This could involve a large number of people who have been part of the Blatter years. It is time we had a clear-out and the UK has a role and a voice in making sure that happens.
Order. Before I call Mr Evans to speak, let me say that wind-ups will begin at 10.30-ish, so we have about 40 minutes for seven speakers. That is about five and a half minutes each, colleagues, if we can restrict ourselves to that.
I will try to keep my remarks brief, Mr Streeter.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) on an excellent speech—probably one of the best I have ever heard. He proved that football at its best brings people together; it is clear, looking around the Chamber, that that means even the Tories and the Labour party. It must be the only thing that can do that. I also congratulate the Minister. I have known her a long time, since I was elected to the House. Sometimes she has been kind to me and sometimes unkind; I hope that today she is kind.
FIFA is rotten to the core and has been for a number of years. Stanley Rous was elected in 1961, Havelange took over in 1974 and Sepp Blatter became president in 1998, so FIFA has had only three presidents. During the same period, the United States of America has had 10 men as President and Great Britain has had nine men and one woman as Prime Minister. FIFA has been corrupt in full sight. Governments have come and gone and complained about its behaviour, but still the corruption has carried on.
As the hon. Gentleman said, as the FBI and the Swiss begin their investigations, there is a danger that FIFA will close ranks, as it has in the past, and continue to pay lip service to reform. I have sympathy with what he said about Sepp Blatter’s announcing his resignation but still being in post for four months. Someone who announces their resignation because of corruption should go straight away.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that an independent body should now be set up to consider whether we have to re-vote on the 2018 and 2022 World cup. Anybody who has seen the bidding process for Qatar, whether involved or not, knows there is a serious problem. We are still unclear about when that World cup will be held. There could be severe disruption to the football season in this country, and in others, as we hope for the weather to be cooler.
Disciplinary processes are akin to those that Don Corleone might have used. Anybody who challenges Sepp Blatter’s power seems to find themselves suspended from FIFA. Even Prince Ali, who bravely challenged Sepp Blatter, said afterwards that he stopped his campaign because he did not want other football associations to get into trouble. He said that about a sporting organisation in the 21st century. That is a matter of concern.
A lot of people have said that the International Olympic Committee is the model to look at. Yes, there have been problems with the IOC in the past, but it has the seeds of a model that should be considered. During Olympic bids, people are forbidden from meeting the electorate. An expert inspection team is sent to the country to see whether it is fit for purpose and, if it is, it is put into the shortlisting system. That should be said. I also believe that the 209 members should be allowed to vote.
This is all just lip service and a talking shop at the moment. As the hon. Gentleman said, the Serious Fraud Office should be involved with the investigations by the Swiss authorities and the FBI. However, Governments can do only so much. There has to be a collective will. I should like FIFA to be disbanded and a new organisation to be formed. I would even go as far as to say that I should like the IOC to take over FIFA and carry on with a bidding process.
The hon. Gentleman is making an important point about the reforms. We can call for FIFA to be reformed, but how deep can we really go with the current structure? He makes a good point: a completely new organisation is needed.
We need a completely new organisation without the Byzantine committees that seem to keep people in power. I am deeply concerned that, however much the Minister writes to other Sports Ministers or the FA threatens boycotts, the fact is that the French football association, along with other European countries, voted for Sepp Blatter’s re-election. UEFA and Michel Platini followed the line and supported Qatar. I will be honest and say that, although I admired Platini as a player, I do not admire him as an administrator. Even UEFA is not able to clean up its own act, let alone FIFA.
I should like the Minister to say what concrete action the Government are taking. But the issue is not just for this Government; there needs to be collective will among Governments around the world to bring about real change.
Football is not about the likes of Sepp Blatter, Jack Warner or the administrators of football associations taking bribes; it is about the kids who play on scrap land, wearing replica shirts, and about how a football—an actual ball—can bring people together. That is what is often missed. The people who are being betrayed are people like me, who had football posters on their walls at age 10 and wore the replica shirts. I was not the only one. Millions of kids all over the world are being betrayed by Sepp Blatter and his cronies. We need to clean up football now.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) on securing this debate, which has attracted so much interest—and not just from hon. Members running for chairmanship of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. That shows how important this issue is. I also congratulate him on being involved, rightly, in the campaign for a long time.
In the interests of brevity, I will make one point and give five thoughts specifically to the Minister about things that the Government and other authorities could do in the coming months. There is a danger in saying that football is in crisis. Football is not in crisis: FIFA is in crisis. The love of the game all around the world is not diminished by this terrible crisis and this terrible, corrupt organisation. The situation just makes fans angry. I watched the champions league final in a bar in Italy on Saturday night and I can reveal that it is not just in this country that passions run high. It was a good place to watch the match. The bar owner was an Inter fan, so he was supporting Barcelona, which made it more complex.
The love of football is palpable around the world and will not be affected by these issues. However, it is vital for football fans around the world that the top of the game should be brought back to a position where we can all respect it as an institution.
Here are five thoughts for the Minister about what the British Government and authorities could do. First, they could check whether any UK institution or individual has been or is still involved in any corrupt activity. My hon. Friend mentioned the SFO investigations. Other bodies, such as banking regulators and financial services regulators, may wish to be involved as well, because it is unlikely that some of the money floating around has not passed through British hands at some stage. It is important for our reputation as a country that we are as vigorous as possible in pursuing any problems in that area.
Secondly, we could redouble existing efforts to ensure that we have systems in place to stop any potential for bribery and corruption inside the British game, because large sums slosh around British football as well, most notably in the award of television contracts. I should place it on the record that I am not remotely aware—and I do not think anyone else is—of any impropriety in any bidding process at any stage, but it would be good to be reassured that that will continue. Those efforts should also extend to the increasing prevalence of gambling, particularly in-play gambling on games. Anyone who watches football on television will know that most ad breaks are now full of gambling adverts. We know that gambling has led to corruption in other sports, so football fans deserve reassurance that that kind of thing cannot happen in the British game.
Thirdly, the British authorities could offer advice on long-term governance, either directly or through other institutions. I am sure that the Department for International Development has developed great expertise in recent years in trying to ensure that money is distributed as honestly as possible. We all know about the problems with corruption in aid money over the years, and certain practical measures obviously should be taken, such as term limits on the officials who have the power to grant money.
Other Members have already mentioned the ridiculous committee system at FIFA. Certainly ExCo is a FIFA body that should go. There should be on all FIFA boards non-executive directors who do not have any direct executive powers and an audit of disbursement for football development. For obvious reasons, the people who are voting on World cup bids should not be responsible for disbursing money. It may well be that other institutions, such as Transparency International, which has expertise in this field, should be involved.
Fourthly, it is important that we do not look as though we are just, as a country and in particular as a Government, getting involved as an attempt to revive our World cup bids. Of course we would all love to host the World cup—we could host a brilliant World cup in this country at short notice—but nevertheless, it is more important in the long term to clean up FIFA, and, to do that, we will have greater power and a greater voice in the world if it is obvious that we are not simply doing something for national self-advantage. It is absolutely right that we keep up pressure on whether the World cup should be held in Qatar, for all the reasons that my hon. Friend made clear. That terrible figure of 4,000 workers who may have died in constructing the stadiums contrasts with the London Olympics, where one worker tragically died in the building of all those stadiums.
The fifth point is simply that we should all redouble our efforts to ensure that we have a free and energetic press and media in this country. Along with the campaigning of my hon. Friend and the various organisations he mentioned, the existence of a free and vigorous press has played a significant role in exposing the corruption at the heart of FIFA.
Those are five things that the Government could do. As a final thought, they should work on the principle of not doing things that disadvantage football fans. Let us not talk cheaply about boycotts or withdrawals or other things that would not have much effect on FIFA, but would have a significant effect on football fans in this country. There is a huge job of work to be done, and the British Government can play a constructive role in helping that along. I am sure that the Minister will wish to do that.
It is a pleasure to speak on this subject. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) on securing the debate. Over the past three years, he has shown a deep interest in the subject. He was one of the first to promote it and ask questions on it in the Chamber, and those questions were followed up, so it is good to have this debate today. Everything he said has been proven to be true. I also congratulate the Minister on securing her new position. I had her over to my constituency, where she visited the local girls football team and had a chance to encourage them, and it is nice to see her in a role that relates to a subject she enjoys. We look forward to hearing her responses to our questions.
This debate is important and timely. We all share in the jokes about our football teams. Football crosses political, religious and social divides and brings us together. When we put on the red and blue scarf of Ards football club, or the blue of Leicester City or of Rangers, and get behind our team, it brings us together; that is what it is about. Looking back at what has happened, we cannot help but be saddened for the fans, the game and the future of football. I emphasise that we should not see the game of football as marred or muddied. We should recognise that the individuals behind the actions that have come to light do not reflect those who love the game, watch it with delight and participate; instead, they seek to exploit it and its integral competitive nature for self-gain and greed. Clear examples of that have been given by the press and Members in the Chamber today. We must look towards football fans the world over and ensure that they can be satisfied that football remains the beautiful game.
The past few weeks have perpetuated concerns and thrown FIFA into disarray. They have also thrown into contention the viability and integrity of the Russian and Qatar World cup bids, as the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe said. Those bids are clearly questionable and have to be looked at. It is no coincidence that many players and associations are disillusioned with FIFA. I will mention one, because it is in the press, and that is Football Federation Australia. It has said that it will not launch a bid for the women’s World cup until there is a substantial overhaul in the governance structures of FIFA. The hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) played football as a lady and was quite good at it, I understand. We understand the issues, which reach across the whole football world and all genders. It is hard to blame those who, like the Australians, want to get into the competition, but see that there is little likelihood of it being a fair game, and who ask, “Will we get a chance?” The issues have tainted the very fields on which our players endeavour to perform, and that is a sad state of affairs for football fans.
If I may, I will focus on issues a wee bit closer to home. The cases seem to be endless and growing each day. My hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell) referred to recent revelations of FIFA’s financial agreement with the Football Association of Ireland not to proceed with legal action to overturn the Thierry Henry handball decision after a loan was made of €5 million. That is one example, but it perfectly shows two of the biggest issues in the overarching scandal: the lack of transparency and of sportsmanship. On the first, it is truly astounding that FIFA can advocate transparency and reform, and then begin to think that confidential payments are in tandem with that aim. How can that be? It is impossible to pull the two things together. It is an insult to football fans—and players, who claim that they were unaware of the sheer sum awarded by FIFA to the FAI. FIFA’s real lack of sportsmanship is evident. It is easy to assume, given that players have spoken out, that the players and the fans alike would have wanted a rematch in the name of sport, rather than a settlement for financial gain. The spirit of sport is to compete on the field on fair grounds, and FIFA has clearly lost that spirit.
That reminds me of the issue of how FIFA has handled relations with Northern Ireland. While Northern Ireland has worked tirelessly to eliminate sectarianism from matches, FIFA has never failed to be tough on us. It also changed the rules on the eligibility of players who committed themselves to Northern Ireland, giving an advantage to the Republic of Ireland. That was hard on us, and we feel hurt and annoyed by it.
We need to send a clear message that what has happened is inexcusable, and that those responsible must be held to account before the law, with complete even-handedness. The football associations can be trailblazers to restore the integrity of football and the faith of the fans, but sponsors also have powerful leverage. What is being done to engage sponsors in using that leverage? It is clear that there is cross-party support for reassessing the governance of world football, and that is promising. We need to move towards building a consensus across Europe and beyond on restoring the integrity of football, with FIFA governance based on transparency, democracy, fairness and real accountability. That will require real and decisive leadership, and I hope that in this debate we can see the first steps in that direction.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) on securing this debate. He has pursued the case against FIFA with diligence and zeal and deserves great credit for his persistence. When the Blatter juggernaut looked unstoppable, he kept going. I welcome the sport Minister to her new post. She has a great affinity for the role, and I am sure she will be an excellent Minister and a champion for sports for men and women.
I share the widespread relief that Sepp Blatter is going. His departure so soon after his re-election truly proves that football is a game of two halves. His tenure as president has brought shame on the game, and his toxic legacy of corruption and malfeasance will take a long time to unpick and set right. The FA has been raising concerns for a long time, but we should all be grateful that the FBI, serving quite literally as the world’s policeman, has finally toppled the rotten gang at the top of the world game.
As has been said, there is a risk that the months that will pass with Sepp Blatter still in post will allow him to pull the strings, rig the election of his successor and fulfil his key priority: protecting himself and the others in his rotten gang. Will my hon. Friend the Minister tell us what we and the FA can do to try to ensure that that does not happen? Do we need to push, and how can we push together to get him out now?
The victory of getting rid of Blatter poses as many questions as answers. What steps is the Serious Fraud Office taking to assess whether criminal offences were commissioned via British companies and banks, and when can we expect it to report? HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered were all named on the original indictment released by the US authorities. We should be rigorous in ensuring that we play a full part in exposing exactly what happened and holding people to account.
The SFO has released a statement saying that it is
“assessing material in its possession.”
We now need full and frank disclosure of what the SFO knew about the scandal at FIFA, and when it came to know. If the SFO was in receipt of credible evidence of wrongdoing in FIFA before the FBI and the Swiss authorities proceeded to make their arrests, we also need to know whether it was conducting, or had conducted, an investigation of its own—whether it was co-operating with authorities overseas or simply sitting on its hands.
There are also important questions for the future. FA chairman Greg Dyke has called for the report on the World cup bidding process, compiled by the ethics investigator Michael Garcia, to be released in full ever since a summary of it was released last November. When will it be published? When will we see what the independent investigator found? What pressure can the Minister exert to make that happen? I would also be grateful if she commented on how the Government can work with fellow Administrations worldwide to ensure that FIFA is never tarnished in this way again and that its practices are rendered honest, accountable and transparent.
As a new Minister, does she think Governments have sat back too much and said, “It is up to football to sort itself out”? The new Secretary of State said something similar the other day, but I am not sure that it is entirely a matter for football to sort out itself. Criminal activity is criminal activity; it is for state authorities to do something about it. There are a lot of questions for a lot of states around the world, and not least for the authorities in the country that is the originator of football and has one of the largest financial centres in the world, if not the largest.
There are other important issues that must be discussed. My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe mentioned the disturbing evidence that has surfaced in recent days that suggests that the awarding process for the 2010 World cup in South Africa may have been corrupt. If it emerges that the awarding process for the 2018 and 2022 World cups was influenced by corruption, will the Government press for those votes to be deemed void and held again? Do they support, as I do, the FA stating clearly, for the elimination of any doubt, that it is not seeking for England to take over the hosting of either of those World cups? That way, Sepp Blatter and his cronies will not be able to suggest that the British voice is influenced by self-interest or sour grapes about our 2018 bid—it is a genuine commitment to cleaning up the game. In any normal area of life, if a commercial tendering process was proved to have been corrupt, it would have been re-run automatically. Will that happen for the Russian and Qatari bids?
Football is one of the world’s great sports and is among the most powerful cultural legacies of our country. Like all sports, it should not only entertain but inspire. It should also foster an awareness of the importance of good sportsmanship and the need to obey rules. We need fundamental reform so that the global game is better run and better represented to the world. That process must now begin in earnest.
It is a joy to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. I join colleagues in congratulating my hon. Friend the new Minister for the brilliant start she has made in her role. I am particularly delighted, because her appointment shows that in this new, one nation, compassionate Government, all prior sins will be forgiven. I am rather hoping that that will extend to other colleagues in due course. [Hon. Members: “Declare an interest!”] Perhaps I should.
Colleagues are absolutely right to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins). The truth of the matter is that for a long time this issue has not been front and centre in discussions in the House, but he has made it so. He has campaigned on it for a long time, and it is to his huge credit that he did so and built up such unmatched expertise, and also that he has highlighted the conditions of the workers in Qatar. As he made clear, this is only the beginning of the process begun by the US and Swiss authorities. It is clear that we can expect not only that the process will continue, but secondary lawsuits—for example, from defeated bidders. The repercussions of what has begun will resound for many years to come, and possibly for decades.
As colleagues have noted, if Mr Blatter is allowed to continue to run the process to select his successor, and to defend FIFA and his interests as vigorously as he has done so far, there is every possibility that little, if anything, will change as a result of any reforms made. This is an institution with virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight, as has been amply demonstrated by its failure to make public the Garcia report and any further reflections on it. In that context, the legal process is under way, but there is only one other solution on the table: cut off the money supply and target the commercial sponsors and broadcasters.
It is important to talk about sponsors, but the World cup reaches a worldwide audience, so if McDonald’s or Coca-Cola are not involved, some other company will take their place because they all want to get into people’s homes. The hon. Gentleman is a Conservative, so perhaps he will not like this, but has he given any consideration to players going on strike? If the World cup did not feature the likes of Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo, it would be diminished. That would send a powerful message to FIFA.
That is a very interesting suggestion. The question to ask before that is whether, if it is shown that the bidding processes for the Moscow and Qatar World cups were in fact as corrupt as is widely believed, due thought should be given by sponsors and broadcasters to setting up a parallel organisation in order to bring FIFA to its senses. That is the move that we should make before contemplating a players’ boycott, which has not always proven effective in other sports.
The Bribery Act 2010 has rightly been mentioned. I have recently written in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe to try to clarify some details and ask for further guidance. The Act has a very wide jurisdiction: it applies to any commercial organisation that trades in the UK and fails to prevent bribery by a person associated with it, and that bribery can take place anywhere in the world. In other words, it gives a lot of potential for prosecution. It was supposed to update the law on white-collar crime, but the fact of the matter is that very few convictions have been secured so far, and there is little, if any, evidence that a prosecution has been brought under the crucial section 7.
I asked the director of the Serious Fraud Office questions that build on some of those already mentioned. I asked whether the sponsors associated with FIFA—Adidas, McDonald’s, Gazprom, Hyundai, Kia, Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Visa—might be guilty of offences; what specific measures the SFO has taken or will take, and what it knew; whether it has met employees or agents of, or advisers to, the sponsors, or has plans to meet them; and what steps have been taken to interview employees or agents who may potentially be subject to UK criminal prosecution. I have not yet received a response to my letter; I hope that I do, and I will make it public when it arrives. Politicians cannot be in the business of unduly influencing legal procedures, but it is striking that so few prosecutions have been brought under an Act that was supposed to clean up white-collar crime.
The next stage is to move on to the broadcasters. Broadcast rights money may also have been used in corrupt practices. If the broadcasters are commercial organisations under the law, they too may be subject to the 2010 Act—and, of course, they need not be British, but merely trading in this country, as all the world’s broadcasters do. After that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) mentioned, we can move on to the banks, money laundering and other malfeasance, much of which we have heard about on the Select Committee on the Treasury.
I will close by reflecting on the bidding for the World cups in 2018 and 2022. Anecdotal evidence is starting to build to suggest that the processes were deeply corrupt. If so, there is little hope of those processes being unwound, but what is the alternative? The only alternative, which must balance European interests and those of the new markets for football, is that a pan-European World cup, covering every major footballing nation in Europe and using existing stadiums, be held in 2018. That could buy us some time. It could easily be hosted, as the stadiums and infrastructure are present, and it would allow more time for the Qatar World cup—an odd proposition in its own right—to be fully assessed. Many football associations across Europe backed Mr Blatter, and if we hold such a World cup, they can come together and start to bind up some of the wounds, and the whole of footballing Europe can then move on.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time in this Parliament, Mr Streeter. It is impossible to speak in this short debate, even with the exhortation that we should be brief, without paying an appropriate tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) for having taken up this campaign and having the courage to run it when the rest of us, and indeed the Government, had frankly dropped the ball. He deserves considerable credit not only from football fans in this country, but from football worldwide for bringing this to the forefront of the considerations of those who love the beautiful game. The Sunday Times’ Insight team and “Panorama” also deserve credit for their investigations, which should have led to action much earlier.
It is also impossible to speak in this brief debate without expressing the genuine joy felt, at least among Government Members, when my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) was absolved of the sins to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) referred and promoted to Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. She will do a fantastic job if she is anywhere near as successful in her new role as she was when she was running women’s football in her constituency.
How have we reached this position in relation to FIFA? The answer is simple: it is what happens when a gentlemen’s club that was designed a long time ago to run the game of football worldwide meets the billions and billions of pounds that now wash around in the game. Despite all the publicity that has surrounded the corruption for so long, it is apparent that FIFA is no longer in possession of the necessary structures to run the game in a transparent and anti-corrupt way in the 21st century.
Jérôme Valcke, FIFA’s general secretary, announced today that the bidding process for the 2026 World cup has been suspended. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that even FIFA has now recognised that its systems are completely flawed and corrupted?
I agree with my hon. Friend. The announcement is extremely welcome. If there is time, I will discuss the bidding processes for the 2018 and 2022 World cups.
It is important to recognise that we are sitting in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. This House holds the Minister to account and the Minister can influence the Football Association and the other home nation associations, but she is not ultimately responsible for FIFA. All that we can do in this place is try to shine a light on what has gone on, raise the issues and seek to persuade the Minister that she and the Government can do more to ensure that the game is governed well not only in this country, but elsewhere in the world through international bodies. In that light, I venture to suggest to the Minister that the Government need to do certain things that they have not done in the past or at least have not done effectively.
The first is that better effort needs to be made at governmental level between the Minister and her counterparts in Europe, to whom I know she has now written, regarding the actions that they take regarding their football associations. The English FA is widely regarded in FIFA as pandering to this Parliament and to the media, in a way which other football associations are not. That is a reflection of the fact that the English FA and the associations of the other home nations do a good job, they are held to account through the Government, through this House and by the media, and they are, therefore, answerable to those whom this is actually about at the end of the day: the fans. That is not necessarily the situation elsewhere. In her reply, the Minister needs to indicate what actions she is taking with other Sports Ministers across Europe, and indeed the Commonwealth, to hold their football associations to account, so that ultimately the global body that is FIFA is held to account.
I also suggest that the Minister make clear the Government’s position on the continuing presidency of Sepp Blatter—because he is still the president. I am tempted to and will refer to FIFA as a “Sepp-pit” of corruption—[Hon. Members: “Boom, boom!”] Indeed. Sepp Blatter must step aside now. My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe suggested that others could come in to run the organisation in the interim. That would be welcome. That needs to be the Government’s position, and the Minister needs to make it clear today that that is the Government’s position.
My hon. Friend also referred to the Serious Fraud Office, which does seem to have dropped the ball. I asked an urgent question in the House on FIFA in the first week of this new Parliament about the steps that were being taken in conjunction with the Attorney General to ensure that the corruption that has been endemic in FIFA for so long is properly investigated in this jurisdiction. It is perfectly clear that it can and should be investigated here, not least because some of the allegations made in the 161-page indictment filed by the United States Department of Justice make it clear that some of the corrupt behaviour probably took place here or in places where we could take action here. If we have dropped the ball, it seems that others, in particular the SFO, have dropped the ball regarding investigations and potential prosecutions. That must be remedied and the Minister must describe precisely what is happening.
I know that the Minister feels passionately and strongly about this issue and that she is doing a good job behind the scenes. I want to hear how she is diverting the relevant rivers to cleanse the Augean stables of corruption that has grown up around FIFA in Switzerland. I look forward to her response.
I call Andrew Bingham, who has until 10.33 am.
Sorry, I was looking at the wrong clock. Anyway, I will do it in six minutes and we can call it “Fergie time”.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. I congratulate the Minister on her promotion. Having neighbouring offices, I know of her love of football and I am sure that she will do a fantastic job. It is nice to hear her being supported by many of her colleagues here today, who may now be known as the “Crouchettes”, but we will see.
Football has been called the people’s game. What we have seen over the past few weeks has been a scandal and an insult to the interest and love of the game held by many of us at all levels, from “jumpers for goalposts” to non-league football, which I follow, and right through the game. Much of what I was going to say today has already been said, but I want to echo some of the points made. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) on securing this debate and on the work that he has done. He has been talking about the issue for some time—as has been said, when nobody else was talking about it, or indeed listening, he was. He pursued the issue and has been proved right.
England is the birthplace of the game. We have hosted only one World cup. It was held long before the present Sports Minister was born and not long after I was born, but it was a long time ago. Although not a FIFA event, I remember fondly England’s hosting of the European football championship in 1996, and what it did for and how it energised the country. Some of the football may not have been particularly good, but the tournament inspired the nation. Those of us who are old enough still remember the 4-1 victory over Holland as one of the best England performances for some time. Why is it that the birthplace of the sport has hosted only two tournaments? We have bid for tournaments. We bid for the 2006 World cup and lost out to the German bid. We have discussed the bidding process for the World cups that have gone to Russia and Qatar. We were unsuccessful for 2018, even though we had a technically excellent bid that used grounds around the country, which would have taken the game back to the people. Football was coming home. In fact, it would have come to Home Park in Plymouth, which was one of the proposed grounds. That prompts the question: why have we been so unsuccessful? The problem is FIFA.
I was going to be circumspect in my comments even though we have parliamentary privilege, but, having heard what has been said, I might not be. Our face did not fit, and I would venture to say that our pounds did not fit in the right wallets. Palms needed to be greased, but we would not do that because we play an honourable game in this country. I am told that for the 2018 bid, the FA spent about £19 million. Why did FIFA allow that to happen when, with hindsight, it was patently obvious that we would never get the votes?
Does my hon. Friend agree that if it emerges that the bidding process was corrupt, that £19 million should be repaid to the Football Association by FIFA?
I completely agree with that excellent idea. I am sure that the FA could make good use of £19 million. If it were to get that money, I would urge it to put into the grassroots and let the people benefit from it.
FIFA allowed the FA to go down that road and spend all that money. People say that we will never win the Eurovision song contest again because we are not very popular in Europe. Without wishing to denigrate that contest, I would say that this is a lot more important. I am not sure that I subscribe to Bill Shankly’s view that football is more important than life and death, but it does run through the DNA of this nation. It is a tragedy that we have not held more tournaments and that is because of FIFA.
We have heard a lot about what FIFA has done and I will not beat about the bush: FIFA is bent and corrupt and it has been for a long time. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips) called it a “Sepp-pit”, but I would prefer to call it a “Sepp-tic tank”, because since Mr Blatter has been in place, anyone who has opposed him or given alternative views on what he is like in one way or another has been sidelined and prejudiced against. I think that that is what has happened to us.
I understand that the FA questioned Mr Blatter’s re-election in 2011 and it supported the opposing candidate in the recent election, so the FA has been strong on this matter, but it cannot do it alone. Therefore, as a Government we need to look to help and play our part by asking other Governments across the world to speak to their federations. We cannot let this insult to a game loved by people at all levels go on. The International Olympic Committee went through a cathartic process a few years ago and FIFA must do the same.
On how we go forward, my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) suggested that 2018 should be a pan-European World cup. I am quite attracted to the idea of spreading the competition around Europe and then we could look at what to do with Qatar. Mr Blatter, by being allowed to remain in place until December, is being given time to bury the bodies and cover it all up. Quite frankly, he must be out and dealt with straightaway. We need to get on top of this because we are fiddling while Rome burns, and the game that I and colleagues love will burn with it.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I thank the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) for calling for it and for his work in this area. I made my maiden speech just a couple of days ago, so I am still learning the ropes and I hope that Members will be kind.
I welcome the Minister to her position. I share her passion for grassroots football. I played football as a young girl growing up in Livingston, and I went on to play for the University of Stirling. A couple of my contemporaries in that team are now in the Scotland women’s team.
As we debate these issues, it is important to note that the FIFA women’s World cup is taking place in Canada. I note with some concern that Sepp Blatter plans to attend that tournament, so I ask the Minister and other Members to join me in calling for him not to attend. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] It is important that we send a strong message. As other Members have said, he should stand down from his position immediately. His attendance would send the wrong message and further besmirch the game and FIFA’s name.
It is important to note the work done here, but does the Minister think that this is an opportune time to look at the game across the United Kingdom? In Livingston I worked for a team behind the bar and at the reception, which funded me throughout my time at university. That grassroots club developed a number of players who are now in the Scotland team, but sadly it has been fraught with difficulty because of poor management. Other clubs in Scotland and across the UK, such as Rangers, have had similar financial difficulties.
We do not have the right checks and balances in our home game to ensure that the people who buy football clubs are right and proper. Therefore, while we have issues with FIFA, we should also look at examples of clubs in our country where things have gone wrong, because we are all very fond of football. It plays such an important part in life across the United Kingdom, so we should look at lessons to learn at home as well as in FIFA.
We need to support Greg Dyke’s comments about whether we will pull out, but we also need to go further and say that we will not support the next two World cups, given the circumstances in which their votes took place. I agree with Members who said that we should carefully consider whether we support those tournaments. We will have to stand united on that.
I thank the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe again for holding the debate. In Scotland, we have had a number of fantastic sporting events in recent years, including the Commonwealth games, which came in under budget and has been an important part of Scotland’s sporting traditions. We should look to that for lessons to learn and I call on the Minister to engage with the Scottish Government, SportScotland and the other bodies that were involved and take those lessons to FIFA as good examples of how sporting events have been and can be run.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. I congratulate the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) not only on securing the debate but on his continued and tenacious pursuit of FIFA and Mr Blatter in particular. He has been a doughty campaigner and I commend him for it.
I also take the opportunity to welcome the Minister to her post. It is an unfortunate task for me to oppose her, because she is probably one of the most liked people in the House. I feel like a pantomime villain here—I will probably get attacked by my own side if I am horrible to her. I am genuinely pleased to see her in her place, because she will be good news for sport. I am sure she will do a very good job and I wish her every success in trying to convince her colleagues, some of whom have not always had sport in their DNA as she has, that we should give sport a much higher profile.
I congratulate those who have been campaigning for a long time and shining a light on the corruption in FIFA, such as the BBC’s “Panorama” programme and the journalist Andrew Jennings. They are now being proved right. Their work was dismissed by some as conspiracy theories, but for many of those people it is now coming home to roost.
The problem started in 1974 when João Havelange defeated Sir Stanley Rous as FIFA president. Havelange was a visionary who could see the power of football as an international force, but unfortunately he also saw it as an opportunity for corruption and bribery and to make money, rather than as the force for good that we know it is. Across the world it can promote peace, understanding and sporting endeavour, which we all highly value and respect. As the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe pointed out, Havelange created his own Frankenstein’s monster: Sepp Blatter is very much Havelange’s placeman. I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that we must not allow Blatter to do as Havelange did, and get his own gravedigger in to bury the bodies and make sure that they stay well and truly buried. We need to shine a light on the corruption in FIFA.
I commend all Members who have taken part in the debate for their contributions: my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans), the hon. Members for Strangford (Jim Shannon), for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), for High Peak (Andrew Bingham) and for Livingston (Hannah Bardell), and the hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips). We all agree that something needs to be done about FIFA, but although we all agree—many people across the globe agree with us, as well—what is lacking is a set of criteria that we can coalesce around to take the situation forward, so I have had a stab at a 12-point plan that people should campaign for to really reform FIFA.
We need FIFA to make a statement that it will open up its financial procedures and structures to independent international audit, and publish the pay grades and expenses of all senior staff and members of its executive and congress. It should write strong anti-corruption statements into all its contracts of employment and its terms of engagement for all executive and congress members. It should set out in a mission statement its goals to expand football across the globe, and then set out how it will measure its success against the goals in that mission statement. It should redistribute its resources to increase participation and improve facilities, in partnership with national, regional and local Governments, to develop the game at the grassroots.
I agree with the points the hon. Gentleman is making. Does he agree that it is vital that there is disclosure of the commercial and financial interests of not only the members of the executive committee but their immediate family members, so that we can rid the game of the scandal of people awarding contracts to those in their own close circle for their own benefit?
Absolutely. Mr Warner and Mr Platini are two examples of where the need for that wider scope of scrutiny is recognised. At least we have begun the discussion by trying to define what we should be looking to achieve.
FIFA should also make a commitment to set up a sub-committee of the executive to oversee the development of the game, scrutinise the distribution of funds and monitor performance against its criteria for the game’s development. Recognising football’s extremely powerful position in the sporting family, FIFA should commit itself to working with other sports to promote the general wellbeing of people across the globe through sporting activity and healthy lifestyles.
FIFA should recognise the power of football to promote peace and understanding across the globe and ensure that human rights concerns are considered as part of the bidding process for all major competitions, set up decision-making structures for all bids and allocations of resources to meet the highest standards of probity and accountability, and adopt stringent anti-corruption procedures. It should also challenge gender, racial, religious and homophobic discrimination, and strive to connect with football fans and to open itself up to public scrutiny by using new technology to communicate regularly with fans and others in the wider football family. If we set out the criteria for how FIFA needs to change rather than simply talking about that change in general terms, we will have more chance of success.
The situation is an absolute farce. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe read out the list of indictments against several FIFA members. Six people have had Interpol red notices issued against them; two are still on the run and no one knows where they are. No one has yet mentioned the film—talk about descending into farce. The idea that FIFA would fund its own film to write its history would stagger anyone, but that has actually happened.
We are beating about the bush somewhat. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that even if Sepp Blatter is not indicted, it is inconceivable that he did not know that the corruption for which others will face criminal charges was taking place?
It is inconceivable, and that is why it is extraordinary that Blatter is still in place. I am not relaxed about the fact that he is going to remain there until 16 December. He should have gone when he resigned. His desk should have been cleared and he should have been escorted from the building. That is what would happen if anyone in any other circumstances were found to have been associated with this sort of corruption, whether proven or not—they would not be given the chance to stay in their post, clear up the mess and cover up their misdemeanours. That would not happen in any other organisation, so I do not see why we should accept it when it comes to FIFA.
Members have commented on the 2018 and 2022 World cups. I do not think we should attempt to host the 2018 World cup. It would be an afterthought, and holding the world’s premier major tournament requires a great deal of long-term planning. We should be looking at a future bid, perhaps for 2026 or 2030. We certainly should not be a stopgap, as we would not make the most of hosting the World cup that way. The 2022 World cup, currently to be held in Qatar, would not come to Europe; Australia or the USA will bid for that.
The small ingenuity of my proposal to run the 2018 tournament across Europe is that the burden would fall evenly and so could be managed quickly. Also, we would not be in the driving seat arguing our own case but would be arguing for a pan-European solution.
That may be what happens, but it may be too late to unpick all the contracts for the 2018 World cup.
I also want to mention human rights. If there is any reason we should not go ahead with the World cup in 2022 it is the human rights issue. I have said this on several occasions and will do so again: the idea of multimillionaire footballers running around in stadiums built by people working in virtual slave labour conditions, so many of whom have died—more people than will take part in the tournament—is one that I find abhorrent. I cannot support it. That issue alone calls into question the decision to go ahead with the 2022 World cup.
In yesterday’s Guardian, the SFO said it is actively investigating FIFA. Will the Minister shed some light on exactly what it is investigating and when we can expect to hear anything? Bearing in mind that the US attorney’s indictments go back to 1991, what discussions has the Minister had with the FA about any misdemeanours that it may have committed in a previous guise? I commend our FA for having been innocents abroad in our bid for the 2018 World cup; the fact that we got only one vote other than our own suggests that we were very innocent, but we need to go back to 1991 and look at what the FA was up to back then to ensure that no one was involved in the early days of the corruption that has beset FIFA. Will she also give us a reassurance that at no stage has any money from UK broadcasters been used in any way to pay or facilitate bribes to any members of FIFA, or to members of FIFA members’ families, for that matter?
I am sure we will return to this issue. It is one on which we can all work together, as we have a common cause in cleaning up FIFA.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) on securing this important and timely debate. I am aware of his tireless campaign for FIFA reform over a number of years and commend him for his work in founding New FIFA Now. That initiative was not a reaction to the events that have unfolded over the past couple of weeks but was launched many months ago, underlining the fact that this issue has long needed to be tackled. The phrase “new FIFA now” pretty much sums up what is needed; that has been the key message to come out of recent events and today’s debate.
This is my first Westminster Hall debate as Minister with responsibility for sport, and it is sad that it relates to a matter that has brought the game’s reputation into question. The debate was secured before the announcement that Sepp Blatter was stepping down as president of FIFA. As has been demonstrated, it has been an important debate and one that we needed to have. Before I respond in detail to some of the issues raised, I congratulate all colleagues who have participated.
It was unfair of the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) to say I was never nice to him; I am always nice to him. He spoke passionately, which demonstrates how important this crisis is. I completely agree that its impact is not necessarily limited to the institution itself; it affects the future of the grassroots game. That theme was briefly picked up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green). Having worked for him, I know he is also incredibly passionate about football. He put five challenges to the Government, and I will deal with some of them later, because others raised them, too. However, I want to refer now to his questions about gambling, which I am also responsible for in the Department. On the risks emanating from increased gambling linked to football and sport, I am confident that the UK has robust systems and processes in place. All the key stakeholders—the Gambling Commission, sport, betting operators and law enforcement— work together in the Sports Betting Integrity Forum to identify and address such issues. I hope that answers my right hon. Friend’s question. I will return to the other issues he raised.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the girls’ team in the constituency of the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). Having spoken to its members, I know they are absolutely passionate about the game and determined to improve and grow it in Northern Ireland, which is still a little behind where we are in England. I could see the determination of those I met to ensure that everybody has access to the sport, and I commend the hon. Gentleman on the work he has been doing to develop the game in his constituency.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) rightly referred to trust in the game, and I will refer later to that and to the other issues he raised. Along with my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), he mentioned the publication of the Garcia report. The Secretary of State and I are of the view, as we were in our previous life on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, that the report should be published in full.
Is it not within the Minister’s power to seek to have the Garcia report shown confidentially to Ministers?
I am still working out what all my powers are, to be perfectly honest, but if I do have that power, I would love to see the report.
As an Arsenal fan, I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips) managed to recover in time to make such an excellent speech. It included some really brilliant points, which I will deal with in detail. My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Andrew Bingham) is a huge sports fan, and hon. Members will definitely want him on their quiz team.
It might be helpful, following on from the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), to say that the Serious Fraud Office could, I believe, ask the Swiss authorities for a copy of the Garcia report, to see whether the SFO has grounds to assist them in their investigation.
I will deal in some detail with the issues relating to the Serious Fraud Office.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) on her electoral success, and I welcome her to Westminster. I am glad to hear of her football past; perhaps she can help me lobby the FA to make sure the parliamentary team is a mixed-gender team. I was previously banned from it, so it would be nice to have other women involved in that campaign. She made some interesting comments about Mr Blatter’s attendance at the women’s World cup. I should perhaps not comment on whether he should attend, but given his previous opinions on women’s football, I can say that although he may be going, I doubt he will be welcome.
To respond to the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford), I will try not to be nice for too long, so that he can resume normal service. His 12-point plan raised some good issues. This is a cross-party issue—there is not much partisan debate about FIFA—and I am sure many of us would like to see some of his points implemented. The Government are looking into the issues relating to broadcasting and migrant workers. My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe, too, raised the issue of migrant workers, and the Foreign Office is working closely on it with other Governments.
The allegations levelled at FIFA—the custodians of the game—and reported in recent weeks, months, and indeed years, are deeply disturbing. As Members will know, investigations into FIFA by Swiss and US authorities are ongoing. I cannot comment on the investigations or prejudge the outcomes, but I can reassure Members, many of whom mentioned the SFO, that it is actively reviewing material relating to the allegations, although it is not possible for me to go into detail.
The Bribery Act 2010 can apply only to conduct committed on or after 1 July 2011—after the FIFA bidding process was complete. In addition, the SFO has the power only to investigate cases of suspected serious or complex fraud falling within this country’s criminal jurisdiction. However, I am sure officials heard the comments about the Garcia report and are looking into the issue in more detail.
Until the current investigations have concluded I will not be drawn on whether Russia and Qatar should continue to host the 2018 and 2022 World cups . However, colleagues will have seen that the FA’s chief executive, Martin Glenn, has stated that the FA has no interest in staging either of those World cups, and its focus, along with UEFA’s, is on ensuring there is much-needed reform at FIFA. The Government fully support that view. Colleagues will also have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe say that Jérôme Valcke has announced that the bidding process for 2026 has been suspended, although it is not clear why at the moment.
I join colleagues in welcoming the work done by The Sunday Times Insight team and BBC’s “Panorama” to bring to light many of the accusations we have heard about. Those have received so much media coverage because of our proud heritage of a free press and investigative journalism, and because people in the UK feel so passionately about football. That is why we all want a fair and transparent process for future tournaments. We will find out soon enough whether corruption is proven to have taken place at the highest levels of FIFA, but it is fair to say that trust in the organisation has been lost, and whenever trust is lost, it is very difficult to win back. That is why we cannot rest on our laurels. We must make sure that proper reform takes place. Colleagues have said that although Sepp Blatter’s resignation is a welcome and positive step, it is unacceptable that it is taking so long for him to stand down. It has been reported this morning that his successor’s election is likely to take place in December.
The hon. Member for Islwyn mentioned FIFA taking a fresh approach that could see it learn lessons from Salt Lake City, and I completely agree. FIFA should look to draw experience from some of the many successful international sporting federations. It would also be possible to take the recruitment process away from sport entirely and to seek to recruit from within a successful business.
In the short time left, I want to respond to colleagues’ comments about what I can do as a Minister and what I am trying to do with my European counterparts. On 28 May, I wrote to them, setting out my concern about recent developments and seeking their support in pressing for reform at FIFA. I hope to get FIFA on the agenda for the forthcoming EU Sports Ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg in July. Officials are discussing that with the appropriate people in Luxembourg. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham mentioned a potential discussion with Commonwealth colleagues, and I will shortly seek a meeting with the Commonwealth secretary-general to discuss a range of sporting matters, including how we can help to promote good governance in sport across the Commonwealth.
The allegations against FIFA have brought the game into disrepute. I do not think football’s reputation has ever been so bad. It is for us to ensure that proper reform takes place, and that we end up with a fully open and transparent FIFA. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe on all the work he is doing to try to ensure that that happens.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the UK’s relationship with FIFA.