As campaigning for the right to host the 2018 World Cup enters its final frantic two months, Andy Anson, England's chief executive, has highlighted the country's record in combating racism as the leading contenders shared the same stage for the first and last time before Fifa's executive committee vote on 2 December.
England are in what appears a three-horse race with Russia and a joint Spain-Portugal bid to host the tournament – Netherlands/Belgium and the US are presumed to be making up the numbers – and Anson impressed yesterday in a head-to-head with his global counterparts.
The England bid was the only one to present figures for predicted profit and claimed that, according to an economic impact study, an English World Cup would bring £3.2bn into the country via the tournament and accompanying benefits. While the Russian bid would cost $6m (£3.78m), Anson, standing six feet from the World Cup trophy, claimed England's cost is effectively zero as much of the infrastructure is already in place. "It is a great platform for Fifa to come and make significant profits," said Anson. "We are confident about the numbers and think that is one of the strengths of our bid."
But it was Anson's referral to the Kick It Out campaign, which has fought racism in the game for 17 years, and Paul Elliott's role in heading an inclusivity advisory group that stood in stark contrast to one of the areas of concern surrounding Russia. Under Fifa rules, bid teams are not allowed to comment directly on competitors
"It is something we take very seriously," said Anson, who later spoke of English football taking a "strong lead" against racism. "We are very proud of what English football has achieved."
A Uefa delegate reported racist chanting by Russian fans during a Euro 2012 qualifier in Andorra last month, while Peter Odemwingie, the West Bromwich striker, was the subject of a racist banner displayed by Lokomotiv Moscow fans at his former club. Alexei Sorokin, Russia's bid chief, claimed at the time that "to get a banana" was slang for failing a test.
Anson admitted that the resignation of Lord Triesman as chairman of the FA and of the bid team in May had been the most difficult moment of a bid that has recovered well. Anson also praised the contribution of David Beckham, who spoke to Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, during his recent training camp in Trinidad.
Fifa confirmed Blatter will travel to Downing Street next week to meet David Cameron. The Prime Minister was on holiday when Fifa's inspection team toured the country in August, but has made good his promise to hold talks with Blatter. "This Government has been absolutely fantastic," said Anson.Reuse content