Handbag row casts shadow over 2018 bid

World Cup committee insists gifts to Fifa wives were within guidelines

The England 2018 World Cup bid committee was drawn into a row last night with the BBC after the corporation revealed that the bid team had bought £230 Mulberry handbags for the wives of the 24 members of the Fifa executive committee (ExCo).

The dispute will overshadow the 2018 campaign's announcement today that it has signed up 67 famous footballers, past and present, to support the bid. One of the handbags was give to Jack Warner, the ExCo member who launched a rambling attack on the England bid earlier this month during a visit to London.

The handbags saga was reported on the BBC six o'clock news, dismaying those in the bid team who said that the gift did not break any Fifa rules and was in keeping with normal hospitality protocol. It is understood that Mulberry was chosen because it was a British brand and showcased British creativity.

It will be the votes of the Fifa ExCo which will decide the host of the World Cup finals December next year, although it is understood that the handbags will be the most expensive gift on offer from England. A 2018 bid spokesman said last night: "Fifa have a set of guidelines for all bidders which include direction on what constitutes an acceptable campaign gift. All our gifts are carefully chosen so as to be within both the spirit and letter of that law."

Though the gifts are legal, issue raises the spectre of corruption that once dogged the International Olympic Committee, whose members were offered, among other things, bursaries for their children to attend universities by competing host cities. Given the doubts that exist over the credibility of some Fifa ExCo members, it is a delicate path to walk.

However, the 2018 committee, which has a limited budget and is still waiting for £5m in funding from the government, is aware that other nations are stealing a march on it. The rival Australian bid is understood to be using the billionaire Frank Lowy, who built the Westfield shopping complex in west London, to entertain ExCo members on his yacht. Qatar, which is bidding for the 2022 World Cup finals, is using next month's friendly between England and Brazil in Doha as a huge hospitality event to impress Fifa.

The 2018 committee will give the lie to Warner's claims that England's bid lacks star quality by announcing today that it has a host of famous supporters from all over the world – even Germany. Chelsea's midfielder Michael Ballack, Robinho, Sven Goran Eriksson, Gianfranco Zola and even two players from Warner's own nation of Trinidad & Tobago, Kenwyne Jones and Carlos Edwards, have signed up to become "2018 ambassadors".

The bid committee is adamant that plans to recruit the ambassadors were in place long before Warner launched his attack on the "lightweights" of England's bid.

All-star line-up: Backing the bid

Aaron Mokoena (South Africa), Alan Shearer, Alexandre Song (Cameroon), Andrew Cole, Ashley Young, Brian Deane, Bryan Robson, Carlos Edwards (Trinidad & Tobago), Chris Powell, Cyrille Regis, David Beckham, David James, David Seaman, Des Walker, Emile Heskey, Gareth Southgate, Gary Lineker, Gary Mabbutt, Gianfranco Zola (Italy), Glenn Hoddle, Graeme Le Saux, Graham Taylor, Howard Wilkinson, James Milner, John Barnes, John Obi Mikel (Nigeria), John Terry, Joseph Yobo (Nigeria), Kanu (Nigeria), Kenwyne Jones (Trinidad & Tobago), Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast), Lucas Radebe (South Africa), Luther Blissett, Michael Ballack (Germany), Michael Chopra, Michael Essien (Ghana), Muzzy Izzet (Turkey), Ossie Ardiles (Argentina), Paul Elliott, Paul Ince, Paul Parker, Peter Beardsley, Peter Crouch, Peter Shilton, Phil Neville, Ray Clemence, Ray Wilkins, Ricardo Villa (Argentina), Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Earle (Jamaica) Roberto Di Matteo (Italy), Robinho (Brazil), Roque Santa Cruz (Paraguay), Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast), Sol Campbell, Steven Gerrard, Steven Pienaar (South Africa), Stuart Pearce, Sven Goran Eriksson (Sweden), Teddy Sheringham, Terry Venables, Tony Adams, Tony Woodcock, Victor Anichebe (Nigeria), Viv Anderson, Wayne Rooney, Zesh Rehman (Pakistan).

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Sport
The RBS Six Nations trophy at the Aviva Stadium ahead of Ireland vs England
rugby
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?