Only Beckham can save the world. And the World Cup

Lights! Cameras! Action! NORMAN GILLER has gone all Hollywood on us with a screenplay for an updated version of All The President’s Men, but still starring Robert Redford

I have this week sent a screenplay to Francis Ford Coppola, the Oscar-winning director of The Godfather. My hard work is provisionally titled All The FIFA President’s Men.

Robert Redford is apparently keen to take the role of investigative reporter Andrew Jennings
Robert Redford is keen to take the role of investigative reporter Andrew Jennings in Norman Giller’s FIFA thriller

The main character, Septic Bladder, will be played by Sean Connery, with Robert DeNiro as Greg Dyke, Al Pacino in the role of Vladimir Putin, George Clooney as an FBI agent, and David Ginola as himself. To give the film some glamour we will have Keira Knightley as a Qatar femme fatal. David and Victoria Beckham have walk-on parts as themselves, subject to agreement from their management. My people are speaking to their people.

My screenplay features Andrew Jennings, to be played by Robert Redford as an investigative reporter who first uncovers a corruption scandal at FIFA. He features it in a 2006 Panorama programme called The Beautiful Bung: Corruption and the World Cup.

He follows this with the book Omerta: Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Organised Crime Family., I send a copy of the book to Coppola with my outline, and this is what really appealed to the Hollywood director.

In the film, we follow Redford/Jennings as he traces the millions of dollars that have been deposited in off-shore accounts around the world, and when he hands his evidence over to Clooney at the FBI the FIFA game is up.

Septic Bladder is forced to resign, and many of his FIFA executives start to sing like canaries as they plea bargain to wriggle out of corruption charges made by the FBI and – worse – the Infernal [sic] Revenue Service, who view tax evasion as the most serious crime of all.

Rupert Murdoch, played by Ricky Gervais, appears as a newspaper mogul who points out that his brilliant Sunday Times Insight team played a huge role in exposing the scandal. There is an emotion-charged scene when he concedes that not too many people appreciated their part in the disclosure because he insists on hiding their work behind a paywall.

The film takes a sinister turn when President Putin threatens to pull out of the United Nations if the 2018 World Cup is taken away from Russia, and the Qatar rulers sue FIFA for $500 million for losing the 2022 finals to Scotland. “Why would you want to stage the world’s greatest football tournament in a small country whose national team has little chance of qualifying in its own right?” says someone playing a spokesman for the Qatari FA.

In a tense climax, Putin is seen with his finger on the big red button, and it is left to FBI agent Clooney to extradite him to Washington to face a Senate committee, and along the way save the world and the World Cup.

My big plot twist comes at the end, when David Beckham talks Putin into letting England have the 2018 World Cup finals in return for a free Spice Girls concert in Red Square.

I have every confidence the film will be made. Coppola’s exact words to me were: “I will make you an offer you can refuse.”


CAN YOU IMAGINE what John Sadler would have made of FIFAGate, with a pen that could be poisonous when anybody or anything threatened to scar the Beautiful Game?

John Sadler: fierce, but always fair Picture, courtesy of The Sun
John Sadler: fierce, but always fair.
Picture courtesy of The Sun

I was so sad to hear that my old pal had joined the giant oaks of Fleet Street that have fallen.

Sadles was not only a master wordsmith but also a kind and considerate rival, who was always quick to praise prose scribbled by opposition journos.

He was billed in The Sun as “The Man Who Gives It To You Straight”. John would have hit Blatter right between the eyes with fierce yet fair comments that would have explained to his readers precisely and concisely what the issues were all about.

Sadles was one of those natural-born writers who did not confuse or bemuse, but always got to the heart of the story. With his Yorkshire bluntness he was never in danger of collecting splinters by fence-sitting.

We were often pitched against each other in press boxes around the world, but never allowed our newspapers’ rivalry to get in the way of our friendship.

The best summing up of John came from Brian Clough. “I would trust that young man with my life let alone my words,” Cloughie once told me when we were discussing the responsibilities of ghostwriters. It was after I had pitched for a book and lost out to John, who was Cloughie’s voice for many years on The Sun.

I could not have been beaten to the assignment by a finer observer of the sports scene, who always put the subject ahead of his own ego.

Rest easy, Sadles. You were a man of words and a man of your word.

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