BBC and ITV should not buy World Cup rights, says shadow culture secretary | Television & radio | The Guardian
Until Fifa is reformed and the 2018 and 2022 bids rerun it would be inappropriate for broadcasters to pay for rights, says Chris Bryant in Commons

The shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant has said the BBC and ITV should not pay any money for the rights to broadcast the next two football World Cups until governing body Fifa has been reformed and the bids rerun.

Bryant labelled Fifa, football’s worldwide governing body, a “stinking sink of corruption that has polluted everything it has touched”.

The Labour MP spoke out during culture questions in the House of Commons after the top Fifa executive, Chuck Blazer, admitted bribes were paid to senior officials to vote for two previous World Cups, and the former Fifa vice president, Jack Warner, who is wanted by US authorities, claimed he would reveal the “secrets” about the scandal.

Bryant said: “With the news from Chuck Blazer and Jack Warner, is it not increasingly evident that Fifa is a stinking sink of corruption that has polluted everything it has touched?

“Would it not be wholly inappropriate for any money to pass from the UK broadcasters in respect of the 2018 or 2022 tournaments, unless and until Blatter has actually left, rather than just declared that he is leaving, Fifa is reformed, and the 2018 and 2022 bids rerun?”

Culture secretary John Whittingdale replied: “I share your astonishment that even today the new claims being made by Jack Warner, this whole saga becomes more murky and distasteful by the day.”

He added: “However, if the World Cup goes ahead then I think it would be unfair to tell English fans, and indeed fans of the other home nations if their sides qualify, that they would not be able to watch their sides compete in the World Cup because the broadcasters were not going to purchase the sports rights to cover it.

“I think it’s a separate matter – the important thing is we get this cleared up long before we actually get to the World Cup in 2018.”

Bryant later told TalkSport: “I obviously don’t want to prevent British people from eventually seeing the World Cup that will get played and I don’t want to see, for instance, the women’s World Cup not being broadcast in this country. I think that would be absolutely ludicrous.”

Bryant said the ability to withhold the TV rights money was “one of the few levers that we still have”.

“I’d like to see the two [World Cup bids] rerun, I’d like to see Blatter go, I’d like to see Fifa reformed,” he told the sports station’s Hawksbee and Jacobs show.

“It’s not just the UK, all the other European broadcasters who get their rights through the European Broadcasting Union.

“I think there’s a strong argument to say we should make sure no public money, licence fee payer money or in some countries in Europe it’s straight from the taxpayer, that no money is going into corrupt pockets.”

The BBC and ITV signed a new rights deal with Fifa to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals last year, which included TV, radio and online coverage.

The next finals, in 2018, will be the 14th consecutive World Cup that has been broadcast free to air on BBC and ITV together, dating back to the 1966 competition held in, and won by, England.