Sheffield leaders have united to call for city taxpayers’ money used to help fund England’s failed World Cup 2018 bid to be refunded.
The call comes after suspended FIFA president Sepp Blatter suggested an agreement was in place for Russia to host the tournament before the vote even took place in December 2010.
Sheffield was one of 12 cities and towns shortlisted to hold matches if England had won the right to host the contest and contributed £240,000 towards the £21 million cost of the nation’s bid.
Hillsborough Stadium would have been revamped in time for the global event and Sheffield Council spent £40,000 preparing its bid, then paid £200,000 to the England bid’s marketing campaign.
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke told a Commons’ committee the controversial comments from Mr Blatter would be looked at in detail and he would consider whether the money could be recovered.
Liberal Democrat Lord Paul Scriven, leader of Sheffield Council when the city made its bid, has written to chief executive John Mothersole asking for the authority to write to the Football Association and ‘make it clear the city wants its money back with full compound interest’.
He said: “At the time of the bid we all thought long and hard if we should make a payment to the FA as part of a Sheffield bid to be a host city for the 2018 World Cup.
“All the evidence shows that host cities get far more back than they put in and it would have been a massive shot in the arm for Sheffield and the local economy.
“To now find out we had no chance of staging the World Cup as FIFA were keen to give it to Russia is not just disappointing but damn right dishonest.
“That is why I have asked the council to now seek our payment back with full interest so that local people are not sold short by FIFA.”
Sheffield MPs today said the money could be used to boost grassroots football in the city instead.
Clive Betts, Labour MP for South East Sheffield, added: “Absolutely this money should be paid back – I think it is an absolute disgrace what has been said.
“Even by FIFA standards this is an absolute scandal and the money should be returned forthwith.
“It is money that could be used to go back into grassroots football and that the council could use for a very good purpose.”
Labour Heeley MP Louise Haigh added: “That money could be put towards Sheffield FC coming home, they are trying to raise funds for a new stadium at the moment, which would have a major impact on the area.”
And Harry Harpham, Labour MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, said FIFA was ‘not fit for purpose’.
“In the circumstances, I think FIFA should acknowledge the murky nature of the bid process and refund the money paid out by local councils.”
Sheffield was announced as one of the host cities in 2009, after project organisers worked to produce a 480-page bid document.
Coun Colin Ross, now leader of the city’s Liberal Democrat party and who was involved in making the bid, said his party had called for public money to be refunded previously.
He added: “I remember when FIFA came to Sheffield there were police escorts for everyone, we went to Wembley to give a presentation, a lot of time and effort went into it – if we’d known then what we know now we’d have known it was totalling wasting our time and effort.”
Sheffield Council acting cabinet member for neighbourhoods Labour Coun Sioned-Mair Richards said the bid had been made in ‘good faith’ with more than £300 million expected to be attracted into the city’s economy if England had won.
She added: “Following the recent revelations at FIFA, we will be joining the campaign with other local authorities to recover our expenditure on the bid.”