Summary of Rotten to the Core

Rotten to the Core is a fictional thriller set against the background of the bidding round for the 2018 World Cup and showcases the intrigue that goes on to try and secure the right to stage it.  The storyline runs from 2009 to 2016, with an epilogue set in 2018.

The background to the plot is that England and Russia are the lead bidders for the right to stage the World Cup in 2018.  England last staged the tournament in 1966 and Russia has never staged it before. For both countries, winning the right to stage the World Cup will be highly prestigious. For Russia, it is more than national prestige; it is showing the world that it is a Great Power again.

The bid from England is particularly feared because the country has nearly all the necessary infrastructure in place and has finally defeated the curse of hooliganism that bedeviled the game in previous years. What Russia has is money from oligarchs close to the President and it is ready to use that money to buy influence with FIFA delegates. But the clincher is François Picard, the vain, greedy, and highly ambitious Secretary-General of FIFA who needs to return a favour to Russia for helping France to get a previous World Cup.

Rotten to the Core

Tasked with undermining England’s bid, Picard sees an opportunity. Scotland and Wales are bidding to stage the European Football championships in 2016. They have the enthusiasm but the infrastructure is lacking. If they win the right to stage Euro 2016 and get into difficulties, it will by association undermine England’s bid.

The British Government meanwhile is pre-occupied with supporting England’s bid. When it finds out that Scotland and Wales have won the right to stage Euro 2016, it is taken aback. Many Ministers are concerned about the public money required to bring their infrastructure up to the standards expected and they fear that unsuccessful delivery of the tournament will have a negative impact on England’s bid. But the Prime Minister, David Talbot, is worried about the threat to the Union from increasingly successful nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales and feels he has no option but to support Euro 2016.

Picard assumes that Scotland and Wales will be unable to deliver Euro 2016 and that France will be able to step in and host it. But he underestimates the resourcefulness of the Scottish and Welsh football associations who manage to meet the tournament requirements. And the old adage that “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” as a secretary dismissed by the French Football Association goes public with disclosure of the corruption at the heart of football’s governing bodies. The Americans then get wind of what’s going on and Picard finds himself facing a retirement in jail rather than a tax haven in the Caribbean.

Rotten to the Core

The book ends with a recall vote on the 2018 World Cup and England are expected to win it. But the vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union sours relations with other Western European countries, and the new Government’s mishandling of relations with the Republic of Ireland and with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales all contribute to the bid failing and Russia holding onto the right to stage the World Cup.

If any message comes out of Rotten to the Core, it is that pride, arrogance and greed can drive otherwise intelligent and rational human beings into megalomaniacs.  It is not only the Russian Government, François Picard and the governing bodies of football who show these traits. The British Government also shows them.  From trumpeting British exceptionalism as a reason for awarding the World Cup to England when, at the same time, they are clamping down on workplace rights and the right to protest, planning to claw back powers from Scotland and Wales and trying to coerce the Republic of Ireland over post-Brexit trading arrangements. And it results in England failing to win the right to stage the World Cup when a recall vote is held.

The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales are not immune to hubris. Their primary interest with Euro 2016 is that they hope it will strengthen the case for independence.


What motivated me to write

Rotten to the Core is my second novel— my first, Kingdom Come, was published in 2011.  For 10-15 years, I had thought about writing a fictional novel but, nine years ago, I decided to give it a go and wrote Kingdom Come.  I felt that the themes (the fracturing of the United Kingdom and the scramble to exploit scarce natural resources) had not been explored so I drew on these to write Kingdom Come.

Sales of Kingdom Come were disappointing although to be expected for a debut novel and I originally had no plans to write a second novel. Until the story broke in 2015 that the US Department of Justice was planning to prosecute FIFA for bribery connected to the awards of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.  This gave me the idea that led to be writing Rotten to the Core, and I built in a secondary plot which included having Scotland and Wales successfully bidding to stage the 2016 European Football Championships and the impact of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union.


How is it different or similar to other books of the same genre?

Probably the fact there are no or few heroes.  It is a reflection of the author’s personal views that both sides in a conflict are far from spotless and are motivated by self-interest.


Why should readers buy my book?

The 2018 Word Cup may be in the past now.  But the issues it generated (corruption in football’s governing bodies and the integrity of the awards of the World Cup to Russia and Qatar) have not gone away and are still of public interest.

Rotten to the Core offers a novel (sic) plot whereby the perpetrators support an apparent no-hoper bid for another tournament in the hope that it will damage a rival bid for the World Cup.  Only for the no hoper bid to be a success, whereupon they try to sabotage it.  This is reminiscent of the Mel Brooks film, The Producers.

Rotten to the Core also probes the relationship between the United Kingdom and both Europe and the rest of the world and, in particular, following the Brexit vote. The cultural differences between the United Kingdom and Europe are drawn out, as is the deleterious impact on relations with the Republic of Ireland following the Brexit vote and the tension between the UK Government and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

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Rob Murphy was born in Wembley, North London, in 1956 and was educated at Wallington County Grammar School for Boys and Hull University where he obtained a lower 2nd class BA degree in Politics. He has spent the last 40 years working for the UK Civil Service and currently lives in Sutton, Surrey.

Rob had his first novel, Kingdom Come, published in 2011. Rotten to the Core is his second novel and was first published in 2017.

Rob’s other interests include sport (he formerly played rugby for Old Walcountians RFC), rock music, aviation, and classic cars.