England complaint muddies Fifa waters

FIFA will tomorrow begin their final executive committee before the World Cup vote with another headache to deal with following England 2018's formal complaint against the head of Russia's bid.

England complained to FIFA that Alexei Sorokin, chief executive of Russia 2018, had highlighted London's "high crime rate" and youth alcohol problems in an interview that appeared to contravene FIFA's rules about talking about rival bidders.

Sorokin has said he would provide an explanation to FIFA but that an apology is not necessary.

The complaint has led some FIFA figures to privately express surprise and irritation that England made a complaint about a fairly trivial matter in a week when the world governing body had suffered enough bad publicity.

FIFA's ethics committee has begun investigations into alleged cash-for-votes corruption by two executive committee members, and separate allegations of collusion between two bidding nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

It is understood the England bid team are seeking a formal apology from Sorokin for trying to denigrate their bid rather than expecting FIFA's ethics committee to deal with the case before the December 2 vote.

An England 2018 spokesman said: "We can confirm a complaint has been made to FIFA."

Sorokin, who expressed surprise at the timing of England's complaint, said: "I will provide an explanation to FIFA but I do not feel that what I said originally requires an apology."

The complaint came after Sorokin had told Russian daily Sports Express: "We do not enter into squabbles, although we have much to say. It's no secret, for example, that in London they have the highest crime rate compared with other European cities, and the highest level of alcohol consumption among young people."

A Russia bid spokesman said Sorokin was using a metaphor to the Russian press to highlight difficulties in dealing with the international media and he afterwards expressed regret if his comments had been misinterpreted.