Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

World Cup fix fears as humiliated England licks wounds

Children from St Johns School in Manchester show their disappointment after the announcement of the FIFA World Cup

The team behind England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup finals were last night left fearing they had been victims of a fix.

They earned just two votes from the Fifa executive committee in a crushing defeat to Russia that ended any hope of England hosting their first World Cup tournament since 1966.

Russia’s 2018 chief executive, Alexei Sorokin, told a member of the English bid team on Wednesday that the Russians believed they already had the necessary votes in the bag.

Yesterday, Russia took just two rounds of voting to earn an outright majority, defeating both bids from Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium in the second round.

The chief executive of England's 2018 bid, Andy Anson, offered a brutal summary of the country's position when he admitted, “I don't think people like us”.

Intimating that there was also resentment of the success of the Premier League, he added: “You know what, we have got the strongest league in the world and we are proud as hell of it and that is not going to change.”

Anson also questioned how England could finish first in Fifa's technical and economic evaluations into the bidding nations and yet attract so few votes from the 22 men on the all-powerful committee.

“I honestly felt that we had enough comfort, enough people, to hope that things would go all right and we would go through the first round,” he added.

“For me the biggest disappointment is that we clearly had the best technical bid and the best economic evaluation. Everyone has told me we had the best presentation. David Dein [the bid's international chairman] and myself, David Cameron, David Beckham and Prince William looked people in the eye and asked them for their vote. We were being told 'Yeah'. I am not sure what else you could do.”

Anson described the money spent on the technical report as “£3m down the drain” because “the two bids with the worst technical reports won”. He added: “I do feel that some people let us down. Yeah, I would be lying if I said they didn't let us down. Clearly people who promised us their vote didn't vote for us.”

Beckham, who led England's presentation, along with Prime Minister Cameron and Prince William said that it was one of the worst days in his career. “I just had a feeling when I was sat there, I didn't know the result but I sensed it,” he said.

“There is a lot of disappointment and emotions running around the bid team.

“When you do work so hard at something and don't get anything it is disappointing and crushing.

“There is huge disappointment.” Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, who had accused the English media of “smearing” Fifa in all but name in a statement on Wednesday, insisted the World Cup fight has been “fair”.

He said: “Each bid is very special and significant. Each bid is a challenge and we are honoured to win in this tough and fair fight.” Mr Putin dismissed the suggestion that England had been “cheated” out of holding the World Cup. He replied: “No, I don't think so.

“You know, Great Britain is a great football country and in Russia we have a lot of fans of your football.”