FIFA vice-president Jack Warner has brushed aside last night’s controversial BBC Panorama programme insisting he has no interest in the claims made.
Panorama accused Warner of seeking to buy World Cup tickets to pass on to touts - although the programme accepted he did not actually do so.
The investigation has been branded “an embarrassment” by England 2018 bid leaders, for whom Warner is the key to their hopes of winning Thursday’s FIFA executive committee vote for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, because of the timing of the screening.
Asked about his reaction to the Panorama programme, Warner said: “I really have no interest in this matter... now or ever.”
Warner’s importance to the England bid is such that British Prime Minister David Cameron has invited him to lunch before the vote on Thursday.
Panorama also accused three FIFA executive committee members of taking bribes, but UEFA president Michel Platini insisted the programme should not affect England’s bid.
Platini’s remarks to reporters in Zurich after the programme contained both reassurance and warnings for England.
He said: “I don’t think this [programme] will have an effect, no – but I think what may affect the decision is the atmosphere going back a long time and what people have been writing about FIFA in the British press for many years.”
The three accused by Panorama of taking bribes were African confederation president Issa Hayatou, whose vote England 2018 had high hopes of capturing, Brazil’s Ricardo Terra Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay.
Warner is the subject of accusations that he “ordered [2010 World Cup] tickets costing $84,240 (€64,500) from the FIFA ticket office but the deal subsequently fell through”.
The four men are all part of the 22-man committee who will vote on the 2018 and 2022 hosts on Thursday.
The Panorama programme has been criticised over the timing of the screening as the allegations have nothing to do with World Cup votes and all relate to payments made between 21 and 11 years ago by the collapsed company ISL, which had been awarded the marketing rights to successive World Cups by FIFA.
An England 2018 statement said: “We stand by our previous position that the BBC’s Panorama did nothing more than rake over a series of historical allegations none of which are relevant to the current bidding process. It should be seen as an embarrassment to the BBC.”
Panorama say their investigation was in the public interest and defended the timing of the programme.
A spokesman said: “The programme is in the public interest and shows that some FIFA executives involved in making decisions about the 2018 bid have a history of taking bribes – and that FIFA has consistently failed to act.
“Delay until after the bid was not an option once it became clear that the winning nations might have been chosen by officials with a proven track record of corruption.”
England are up against Russia, Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium for 2018, with Australia, Japan, USA, South Korea and Qatar bidding for 2022.