(WFI) CONMEBOL president Nicolas Leoz has claimed that he received an invitation to last week’s British royal wedding the day before the FIFA Executive Committee decided on the destination of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in December.
The invitation apparently came over breakfast with Prince William, the English FA president who was part of a strong England 2018 delegation in Zurich ahead of FIFA’s vote.
It raises questions about the lengths some bid teams were willing to go to in order to secure votes.
FIFA guidelines said bidders could give gifts of “symbolic or incidental value and that exclude any influence on a decision in relation to the bidding process”.
But bid teams often sought to exploit ambiguities in these guidelines – it would appear that an invitation to the wedding of the year may have been used as an opportunity to garner an advantage over an opponent.
“I was invited on the occasion of our recent meeting [in Zurich],” Leoz was quoted in Paraguayan newspapers, which proudly noted that he was the only Paraguayan to receive an invitation. The CONMEBOL president also made reference to his earlier meeting with the future King of England in South Africa.
He added that he was “unfortunately” unable to attend due to last weekend’s scheduled CONMEBOL Congress.
Although Leoz publicly committed CONMEBOL’s support to the Spain-Portugal 2018 World Cup bid in November, the Paraguayan was strongly targeted by the England bid team. The bid’s international president, David Dein, visited CONMEBOL’s Asuncion headquarters less than a fortnight before the Dec. 2 vote.
Previously, Leoz had held talks with Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry, at a reception in Johannesburg during last summer’s World Cup.
A source who worked on the England bid told INSIDER that royal wedding invitations were brought up in talks with FIFA Ex-Co members, but said that it was unlikely that a formal invitation was sent to any FIFA member.
England was dumped out of the first round of voting after several Ex-Co members reneged on promises made to vote for the bid.
“The Prince was particularly furious with what happened in Zurich,” said the source. “I think any invitation would have been rescinded by December 3. I think it very, very unlikely that any Ex-Co member would have been invited.”
Another well-placed source with knowledge of the bid process said: “I’m sure these things [invitations] would have had a habit of getting lost in the post after what happened on December 2.”
Clarence House, which deals with Prince William’s affairs, was unable to be reached for comment this morning.
Leoz’s revelation comes as the head of an African football association says that the English FA has cancelled all technical and material assistance following England’s failed World Cup bid.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) President Walter Nyamilandu says the decision came “in light of the poor support they received during the 2018 World Cup bid”.
“According to the FA, they took the decision because they felt FIFA was not recognising the support they were giving to the game of football,” he was quoted by the country’s Nation newspaper.
Nyamilandu added that the FA backed Meridian project had been “instrumental” in developing the game in Malawi.
“Most of the coaches and referees have been trained in England,” he said. “Their services and technical assistance are greatly missed.”
By INSIDER’s James Corbett
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