The Bid by Matthew Solon

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BBC World Service World Drama website

BBC World Service, 17 December 2011
Matthew Solon's drama-documentary retold the tale of England's failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Set in Zurich in the run-up to the fateful vote, it described the endless round of meetings, discussions and other lobbying activities mounted by the England bid team, as they tried in vain to persuade the FIFA Executive Committee to vote for them. The campaign was a difficult one: just a few days before the vote was due to take place, a Panorama programme was broadcast on the BBC accusing members of FIFA of taking bribes, while on the day before the vote, European television networks showed footage of violence taking place at a match between Birmingham and Aston Villa. Neither of these incidents did much to help England's chances to host the tournament. Nonetheless the committee, led by Andy Anson (Adrian Rawlins), and including such luminaries as David Beckham and Prince William (both played by James Hurn), and David Cameron (Christopher Villiers), did their best to mount a convincing campaign.
Despite their undoubted conviction, what emerged most tangibly from Matthew Solon's play was the sense of complacency: the English team were convinced they had the best bid, and that FIFA would look favourably upon it, because England was "the home of football." They believed that a few honeyed words and empty promises would convince FIFA President Sepp Blatter (John Sessions), or committee member Jack Warner (Larrington Walker) to overlook what had been said in the Panorama programme and consider their bid favourably.
The English team also seemed extremely naive: by bringing in Beckham and Prince William, they believed that they could convince the FIFA members, without realizing that the members themselves were more interested finding out about Posh Spice and Kate Middleton, rather than listening to what Beckham and the Prince had to say. They were also too trusting; just because a committee member declared their support for England did not mean that they were actually going to vote for them. Solon's play suggested that they were slightly ignorant of FIFA politics; as in any large organization, you have to use insiders to find out what people really think. Although Geoff Thompson (Richard Ridings) was a commitee member, he appeared strangely ignorant of what was going on.
In truth, it seemed that the English bid was doomed to fail, despite the money spent on it. While circumstances certainly worked against them (in the Panorama programme, for instance), they were just not clever enough; they did not realize, for instance, that the inclusion of the young African-Caribbean Eddie Afekafe (Jermaine Liburd) in their team might be perceived as a tokenist gesture towards multiculturalism. Solon's play showed how celebrities and goodwill are not necessarily the best ingredients for success. The director was John Dryden.