BBC exposé alarms England 2018 bid

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The Independent Football

Members of England's 2018 World Cup bid team have visited the BBC director-general Mark Thompson to express fears that a Panorama investigation into Fifa could fatally harm their chances of success.

Bid leaders already admit that the recent Sunday Times investigation into Fifa members has caused "significant damage" to their campaign for 2018, and are worried the Panorama programme will intensify the backlash. Although England 2018 refused to confirm the visit, it is understood that the bid team's chief executive Andy Anson saw Thompson this week to detail the likely implications of the investigation being screened, but was told the programme could not be blocked.

A number of Fifa executive committee members were confronted by Panorama investigators last week in Zurich, causing annoyance among the world governing body's officials.

Fifa has suspended two executive committee members, Nigeria's Amos Adamu and Tahiti's Reynald Temarii, pending an ethics committee hearing after the Sunday Times claimed they asked for money for projects in return for World Cup votes. Both deny any wrongdoing.

A senior England 2018 source said: "This has significantly damaged England's bid because the Fifa executive committee feel they are being targeted by the English media."

England 2018 remain hopeful their case to hold the event will be judged the strongest when the Fifa technical inspectors' report into the bids comes out later this month. The strategy in the meantime is to persuade Fifa members the bid team should not be held responsible for national media.