England face a race against time to secure the 2018 World Cup after the entire bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments was plunged into confusion last night when the Oceania Football Confederation urged Fifa to allow them to take part in this week's secret vote.
An emergency meeting of the Oceania confederation agreed unanimously to appoint David Chung, the acting OFC president, to replace the suspended Reynald Temarii and become the 23rd votingmember at the double ballot in Zurich on Thursday.
Tahiti's Temarii was suspended from all football-related activities for a year by Fifa's ethics committee following a newspaper sting designed to expose bribery and corruption, and is understood to be considering whether to waive his right of appeal in order to allow his confederation to exercise their one vote.
Fifa have stated there is not enough time to replace Temarii and fellow executive member Amos Adamu of Nigeria – banned for three years – and that only 22 executive committee members will be allowed to vote. But the OFC confirmed last night that they had asked to be allowed to name a replacement. "We have decided to ask for David Chung to be allowed to go to Zurich," said one of the OFC member-federation presidents who was at the Auckland meeting.
"It is conditional on Reynald deciding not to appeal," he added. "David is senior vice-president and is already acting president and we are now waiting for Fifa's response. It's important for us to exercise our right to vote."
Temarii is understood to have been sympathetic to England's bid, and so English officials are facing a race against time to try to persuade Chung – whose 2022 vote would be a shoo-in for Australia – to support them instead of Spain-Portugal or Russia for 2018.
Interestingly, a scenario of 23 rather than 24 voters would strip the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, of his castingvote in the event of a tie.