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Mon 9 May 2011 01:22 PM

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England World Cup bid said to have hired firm to snoop on rivals

Former F.A. Chairman David Triesman set to appear before parliamentary panel Tuesday

England World Cup bid said to have hired firm to snoop on rivals
English soccer’s governing body spent $25m on its two-year campaign to win the 2018 World Cup

English soccer officials hired a security company to gather
information about rivals during their failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup,
according to two people familiar with the matter.

The English group asked the investigator to find what other
bidders for the vote, won by Russia on December 1, were doing to gain support
of members of FIFA’s executive committee and to prevent rivals from gathering
information about its own effort, said the people, who declined to be
identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Julian Eccles, a spokesman for England’s Football
Association, declined to comment. FIFA said in an email it wouldn’t comment.

Former F.A. Chairman David Triesman will appear Tuesday
before a UK parliamentary committee to discuss the bidding process. He resigned
from his post last May after being secretly taped saying Spain and Portugal had
agreed to share votes with Qatar, the Gulf nation that was the surprise
selection to host the 2022 event.

The Culture, Media & Sport Committee will hear the
evidence from Triesman. English soccer’s governing body spent £15m ($25m) on
its two-year campaign. Its budget was smaller than that of 2018 host Russia.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and
government officials travelled to Zurich to lobby the 22 FIFA officials who
could vote on the World Cup. A private security agent was also working with an
assumed identity was in the Baur au Lac hotel, where England’s bid team did
most of their lobbying the night before the final vote.

The FIFA voting panel was reduced to 22 members from 24 a few
weeks before the poll because two officials were suspended following in a probe
into allegations they told undercover reporters from London’s Sunday Times that
their votes could be bought.

England was eliminated in the first round of voting, after
getting just two votes, including that of the Geoff Thomson, an F.A. board
member who sat on FIFA’s executive committee. Russia beat Spain/Portugal after
a joint Netherlands/Belgium bid was voted out.

“I am totally surprised,” Francois Colin, a spokesman for the
Dutch and Belgian effort, said in an interview. “It was something we never
thought about doing. But it wouldn’t have been a problem for us because
everything we were doing was open and transparent.”

A month after the vote Cameron described the way soccer is
governed as “murky.”

“I definitely had a number of those FIFA executives who
looked me in the eye and shook my hand and said ‘don’t worry, we’re with you,’”
Cameron said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. “I’m afraid
that the world of football governance is rather murky in that way.”

FIFA has come under fire for the way the World Cup process
was run. President Sepp Blatter told a German newspaper last week he may reform
the system so all of the organization’s 208 national associations can vote on
where the World Cup is held should he be re-elected as FIFA leader in June.

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