Liverpool FC manager Bill Shankly was famously asked if football was a matter of life or death. He replied: “It’s more important than that”.
Shankly’s words connect the past week’s two major news stories: Wikeleaks’ massive leak of United States diplomatic cables and FIFA awarding the 2018 and 2022 Football World Cup Finals to Russia and Qatar.
Wikileaks is about transparency. FIFA is anything but transparent. Decisions are made behind closed doors by a tiny clique of powerful men.
The decisions to award the finals to Russia and Qatar are controversial. Hardly anyone believes either country can deliver a satisfactory tournament.
Anger has been expressed in England because the Sunday Times and the BBC exposed corruption at FIFA in the run up to its decision. The argument says these stories destroyed the English campaign to host the finals.
Maybe they did. But that doesn’t mean the stories should not have run. It means the opposite.
FIFA out of control
FIFA is out of control, corrupt, unaccountable and bullying. There can’t be any non-delusional person in the world who doesn’t think that today.
Football and football fans deserve better. Eventually they will get something better. And that better something will come quicker because of the British news media delving into FIFA’s corruption. I’d love to see Wikileaks publish gigabytes of internal FIFA documents.
But football is only a game. On the other hand the United States is the most powerful nation on earth.
It is also a democracy. Like any modern democracy it is flawed. It isn’t beyond criticism. It isn’t beyond examination.
Whatever Wikileaks’ motivation for releasing the diplomatic cables, it is ridiculous for politicians and others to criticise news media and journalists who report on the information. It is hypocritical for other media organisations or journalists to rant against those who published Wikileaks material.
It’s not a matter of life or death. It’s more important than that.
It’s about telling the truth. That’s a journalists’ job.