SBS will still show World Cup matches even if recent allegations of bribery and vote buying are proved against FIFA.
When asked directly by Crikey if the public broadcaster would show matches even if “the bidding process was shown to be corrupt”, SBS manager of corporate communications Jane McMillan replied that “SBS looks forward to broadcasting all matches from FIFA World cups live and free-to-air regardless of where they are hosted”.
This is despite their own presenters and commentators publicly calling for FIFA to be toppled and that people are “honour bound” to “speak up for change”. It also comes as members of the Australian parliament discuss legal action against FIFA to recover funds from the country’s failed 2022 World Cup bid.
It is not unheard of for national broadcasters to terminate agreements with sporting events that fail a public morality test. German networks dumped coveraged coverage of the 2007 Tour de France after it became apparent doping was widespread.
However, in the absence of a rival competition to FIFA or a legal avenue to exit a contract (Switzerland notoriously protects organisations such as FIFA and the IOC from legal action), it would be a huge ask for SBS to take a stand against corruption. The poorly resourced network, which reportedly paid a make-or-break $15 million for the 2014 broadcast rights, places much of its brand value in the world game and so, like most of the national football associations around the world, is stuck riding the FIFA tiger — unable to dismount for fear of being eaten.
Meanwhile, in Switzerland overnight, 208 delegates at FIFA voted in a controversial presidential election that saw incumbent president Sepp Blatter elected unopposed after his only competition was forced to withdraw from the race due to bribery allegations.
An insurrection by the English football association (FA) failed to halt the election with their motion being voted down 172 to 17, with 17 abstentions (Australia voted for Blatter). The anti-corruption crusade by the FA and the UK press has come under fire from members of the “FIFA family”, with notably the Argentinian delegate accusing the English of being “pirates” and “more busy lying than telling the truth” and openly mocking their losing bid by saying: “With the English bid I said: ‘Let us be brief. If you give back the Falkland Islands, which belong to us, you will get my vote’. They then became sad and left.”
Despite the numbers going against them, the FA claimed victory when Blatter announced a new process for selecting the World Cup host nations in the future. Instead of the 22 member executive committee deciding the winner, all 208 associations will be given a vote.
Pity the poor Australian soccer fan. International events this week have overshadowed the release of the 2011-12 A-League match roster. The new fixture has been very well received by fans and recaptures some of the tight focus that characterised the A-League’s first season before the FFA was distracted by the 2022 World Cup bid. Features include counter-programming the AFL and rugby seasons and an intriguing five-match back-to-back “Marathon Wednesday” on January 4 that has the potential to become an Australian barbecue tradition.