Former Football Association chairman David Bernstein has urged European nations to boycott the 2018 World Cup unless world governing body FIFA undergoes serious reform.
FIFA is firmly under the spotlight again following the release of a report on Thursday by the chairman of the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee which cleared Russia and Qatar to host the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, having found no serious breaches of bidding rules by either nation.
Michael Garcia, who conducted the investigation on which Thursday’s report was based but whose full report has not been made public, has appealed against the version released by FIFA.
Allegations of corruption – strenuously denied – continue to be levelled against the Qatar 2022 and Russia 2018 bid teams.
According to Bernstein, who retired from his post with the FA last year, boycotting football’s biggest tournament should be a real possibility but only if other countries support England in doing so.
“England on its own cannot influence this – one country can’t do it,” he told BBC Sport.
“If we tried to do something like that we’d be laughed at. I think England within UEFA undoubtedly have the power to influence FIFA, but to do so they would have to consider withdrawing from the World Cup, the next World Cup, unless proper reform – including (FIFA president Sepp) Blatter not standing (for a fifth term) – is carried out at FIFA.
“If I was at the FA now, I would do everything I could to encourage other nations within UEFA – and there are some who would definitely be on side, others maybe not – to take this line. At some stage you have to walk the talk, stop talking and do something.
“It sounds drastic but frankly this has gone on for years now, it’s not improving, it’s going from bad to worse to worse. There are 54 countries within UEFA. There’s Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Holland – all powerful. You can’t hold a serious World Cup without them. They have the power to influence if they have the will.”
Bernstein, who gave way to Greg Dyke as the head of the FA, says the events surrounding the report into 2018 and 2022 bidding went “beyond ridicule” and said he had stepped down from his role on FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force as a consequence.
He added: “FIFA is sort of a totalitarian set-up. Bits of it remind me of the old Soviet empire. People don’t speak out and if they do they get quashed.
“The choosing of Qatar was clearly one of the most ludicrous decisions in the history of sport. You might as well have chosen Iceland in the winter. It was like an Alice in Wonderland sort of decision.
“I’ve resigned for two reasons – firstly, the body has been pretty ineffectual. I’ve been on it for more than a year and we only had one meeting; secondly because frankly I don’t wish to be personally associated with FIFA any further.”