Backlash fears for England 2018 bid dismissed

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The Independent Football

Fears that England's bid for the 2018 World Cup may suffer a backlash by a FIFA bribery scandal have been downplayed by a senior member of world football's governing body.

FIFA have launched an investigation into allegations that two of the 24-man executive committee offered to sell their votes for cash, and are even considering postponing the December 2 decision day.

Leading figures in England 2018's bid team have concerns that the scandal could rebound on them if other FIFA members are unhappy that the Sunday Times' expose emanated from the English press.

But Chuck Blazer, the American member of FIFA's executive committee insisted that would not be the case - and that the December 2 vote need not be postponed.

Blazer told Press Association Sport: "I don't think this is an issue which will have an anti-English backlash in the executive committee.

"If it had been in a Spanish paper, would that damage the Spanish bid? I don't think so."

FIFA's ethics committee have launched an investigation into the Sunday Times expose of Amos Adamu from Nigeria and Tahiti's Reynald Temarii, president of the Oceania Football Confederation.

Reporters from the Sunday Times newspaper posed as English-based lobbyists for a consortium of private American companies who wanted to help secure the World Cup for the United States.

At an initial meeting in London, Adamu is said to have told reporters that he wanted 800,000 US dollars to build four artificial football pitches in his home country.

Temarii is also alleged to have asked for a payment, in his case to finance a sports academy. What is also serious for FIFA is that it is claimed both men told undercover reporters that they had been offer cash to vote for other bidding nations.

Blazer said all bidding countries he had dealt with had behaved entirely properly.

He added: "I'm disappointed with what I have read but you can't say the system is bad. They have created a scam, a trap, tempting people to do something wrong and it's up to the FIFA ethics committee to make their recommendation."

Blazer said that FIFA should deal with the scandal as quickly as possible and stick to the December 2 vote.

He added: "We should deal with it within the timeframe established. We want to keep the issues separate and it's important we conclude the World Cup decision. There is no reason why we shouldn't. The investigation can be done right away."

England, Russia, Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium are bidding for the 2018 World Cup while USA, Australia, Qatar, Japan and South Korea are campaigning to host the 2022 tournament.

Blazer said: "I have met with five different bidding committees and in some cases visited their countries - England, Russia, Belgium/Holland, Japan and the United States.

"They were all very professional and proper and not alluding to any other types of benefits and that needs to be said. They were simply trying to offer the best World Cup proposals."

England 2018 are making no statement on the allegations but senior figures are worried that the issue may deter some FIFA members. There is another school of thought however that the scandal could enhance the England bid with FIFA wanting to prove themselves now free of corruption.

The FIFA ethics committee was already scheduled to meet on Wednesday in Zurich but they could now hold an emergency meeting.

A statement from FIFA read: "FIFA has already requested to receive all of the information and documents related to this matter, and is awaiting to receive this material.

"In any case, FIFA will immediately analyse the material available and only once this analysis has concluded will FIFA be able to decide on any potential next steps."

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is understood to be furious at the organisation's reputation being tarnished and is ready to take strong action if the allegations are proved.

Adamu's position looks particularly precarious as he asked the £500,000 for a personal football project to be channelled through a family company. Press Association Sport spoke to Adamu today but the Nigerian terminated the phonecall when asked about the allegations.

He told the Sunday Times he had been talking about business in Nigeria after the World Cup and that his vote was not for sale.

Temarii was unavailable for comment and the Oceania Football Confederation has also announced they are investigating the reports.

The Sunday Times investigations took place during the summer when the USA was still bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups - they announced last week they were focusing on 2022.

Several weeks ago FIFA wrote to executive members warning them that a bogus company was purporting to be backing the USA's bid, and to not speak to them.