Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Beckham tries to boost England's World Cup bid

David Beckham teamed up with Prime Minister David Cameron to try to repair any damage to England's 2018 World Cup bid from the BBC Panorama investigation.

Beckham, Cameron and England 2018 international president David Dein met FIFA president Sepp Blatter in Zurich yesterday, and the Panorama allegations were among the topics discussed.

In a programme screened on Monday night, Panorama claimed three of the 22 FIFA executive members who will take part in tomorrow’s vote had accepted bribes during the 1990s, and another, FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, had attempted to buy World Cup tickets to supply touts.

Beckham insisted however that the Panorama programme will not lose England votes.

The England midfielder said: “Me, David Dein, the Prime Minister and other members of the team sat down with President Blatter this morning and it was one of the topics that we spoke about and something that was cleared away.

“What we made clear to him, and what he already knows, is that if we get the World Cup in 2018 our media are right behind us, our media are so positive towards the sport and towards it growing in our country. It is something that could so big in our country.

“I think that President Blatter is well aware of the support that we will have for FIFA and the World Cup.

“He brought it up within the talks and obviously it was not the easiest of things to talk about. He realised that a lot of it was old stuff and a lot of it was said. A lot of things go on and it is out of our hands.”

After the meeting with Blatter, Cameron had a half-hour meeting with Warner, who remains a key figure if England are to have any hope of beating Spain/Portugal, Russia and Holland/Belgium to host the tournament.

Cameron deflected questions about the effect of Panorama saying: “I've only got one focus here and that's trying to bring the World Cup home for England.

“That's going to be my focus, talking to the decision-makers and pressing them on the brilliance of English football and what we can bring for this bid. That's going to be my concern, nothing else.

“I think we have got a very strong team here — Prince William, David Beckham and myself — and we are going to be making the arguments for England 2018.”

Beckham drew parallels with London's successful bid for the 2012 Olympics, when he and then Prime Minister Tony Blair were credited with helping the capital win the Games by spending time lobbying members before the vote.

He added: “The fact the Prime Minister came over here so early sends out the right tone. To have someone like the Prime Minister supporting this bid and supporting what we are trying to do for the country is a hell of a statement.

“When I went to Singapore for the 2012 Olympic bid and when Tony Blair turned up, it was a huge step for us and a huge support for us, and I think it is going to do the same here. The fact he and Prince William are here shows the weight of support we have in our country.

“There are similarities with the 2012 bid — people are talking about us being the underdogs, maybe not favourites. That was the case in Singapore as well — everybody expected Paris to win it.”

“We know we are up against some tough opposition that are capable of hosting the World Cup so we need to make sure we get our message across.”

The question of whether Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin comes to Zurich ahead of the vote continues to dog their campaign.

Russian bid leader Vitaly Mutko sparked suggestions Putin will not come by saying his presence was not vital as he backed the bid

so strongly. Other sources claim Putin has a meeting scheduled with Blatter for today.

Mutko said: “Mr Putin will speak for himself.

“The most direct support the bid has had is coming from Vladimir Putin — he is involved in our bid on a daily basis, even today this morning we have already discussed issues concerning our bid.”

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