Russia 2018 chief risks Fifa's wrath

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The leader of Russia's bid to host the 2018 World Cup has backtracked on his criticism of England's suitability to stage the tournament.

Alexei Sorokin risked punishment from Fifa when he was quoted in a Russian newspaper talking about both the crime-rate and the level of alcohol consumption in London. However, an official spokesman for the Russian bid has since said that Sorokin "regrets" if his statements have "led to such an erroneous interpretation and understanding."

Under Fifa rules, bidders are prohibited from publicly commenting on rival bids. As such, Sorokin's comments might well have attracted the ire of Fifa's ethics committee were it not for the distraction of the alleged "cash for votes" scandal.

Sorokin told Sport Express: "It's no secret... that in London they have the highest crime-rate compared with other European cities and the highest level of alcohol consumption among young people."

He went on to downplay the significance of a Lokomotiv Moscow fans' banner, which controversially featured a picture of a banana when mixed race striker Peter Odemwingie left for West Bromwich Albion in August. "The banner was not a racist one," Sorokin said. "It was directed against a particular player who got very good money, lived very well here, but for some reason did not seem to want to play well. Racism is a common problem, not just in Russia. All soccer countries have had this, including Britain. Naturally, we must fight this and in the Russian Football Union we have a programme to combat all forms of racism."