Prince William was dragged into the murky saga of World Cup vote trading yesterday after a report claimed he and David Cameron were at secret hotel negotiations during England’s failed bid in 2010.
Fifa’s explosive report into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding process, which was kept secret by football’s global governing body, was finally published yesterday – three years after it was written.
Released in full after German newspaper Bild began leaking extracts, it looks at the background to the December 2010 vote that gave the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the one in 2022 to Qatar.
At the time of the decision, the Daily Mail’s front page questioned the vote with a front page headline: ‘World Cup: Was it a Stitch-Up?’.
The 400-page report claims William and former PM Mr Cameron were present when discussions over a vote trading deal with a South Korean official took place in a Zurich hotel.
Last night, a spokesman for Mr Cameron said he did not wish to comment.
Yesterday’s revelations justified questions raised at the time about how a senior member of the Royal Family such as Prince William could be exposed to backroom deals.
Fifa’s investigation also reveals that England bid officials were asked to arrange for an honorary knighthood and an audience with the Queen for a South American official whose vote could have helped England.
It says: ‘Geoff Thompson, who was chairman of England’s 2018 bid team as well as a Fifa vice president who voted on December 2, 2010, was the only member of the Fifa executive committee who admitted reaching an agreement to trade votes.’
Vote trading during bidding for tournaments is against Fifa’s rules. Andy Anson, the head of England’s bid team, backed up Thompson’s account, Fifa said.
Both men attended a meeting at the Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich along with FA president Prince William, Mr Cameron, and Fifa vice president Mong-Joon Chung of South Korea, which was bidding to host the World Cup in 2022.
‘The Prime Minister asked Chung to vote for England’s bid, and Chung responded that he would if Thompson voted for Korea,’ the report reveals.
‘Mr Thompson, who said he had been thinking about voting for Korea even before the meeting with Mr Chung, agreed.’ But neither Mr Anson nor Mr Thompson believed Mr Chung would follow through on his promise.
England’s bid embarrassingly only received two votes and it was eliminated in the first round of voting.
The report tells how Mr Chung denied the allegation but admitted meeting Mr Cameron in Korea at the G20 Seoul Summit in November 2010 – but he said he never discussed any voting agreement then or with anyone else before the vote.
The report said that Mr Thompson’s ‘admission against his own interests is far more credible than Mr Chung’s denial’, adding: ‘Mr Thompson had no conceivable reason to falsely implicate himself and England’s bid team in a plan to trade votes. Nor did Mr Anson, who corroborated Mr Thompson’s account.’
When Prince William, David Beckham and Mr Cameron began lobbying for the England bid there were concerns about whether a senior royal should have been so heavily involved. The Football Association spent £21million and used the future king in a high-profile role to try to secure the 2018 tournament.
It later emerged the three felt ‘lied to’, according to one England bid member, who said it was ‘embarrassing that William and the Prime Minister lent their good names’.
William is said to have objected to having to fawn to Fifa officials in Zurich to decide which countries should host the World Cup finals of 2018 and 2022.
‘I don’t see why we have to suck up to these people,’ he was quoted as saying.
The report was written by US lawyer Michael Garcia in 2014, but he disowned a 42-page summary published at the time by Fifa and resigned.Last night, Fifa said it had released the complete report for ‘the sake of transparency’.
Bild also claimed the Qataris flew three Fifa executives to a party in Rio on a private jet shortly before the vote.
Kensington Palace declined to comment last night.
The Daily Mail