Jack Warner blasts Panorama

FIFA vice-president Jack Warner has hit out at BBC Panorama's investigation into World Cup bidding by claiming it has been "deliberately designed to negatively impact" on England's chances of hosting the 2018 tournament.

Panorama are planning to screen a programme next Monday, three days before the vote, and have written to Warner as well as FIFA president Sepp Blatter asking for responses to a number of allegations.

Warner, whose vote is crucial to England's hopes, has been targeted by Panorama in the past and he claims it is "a personal vendetta" and that the programme is merely returning to old allegations.

England 2018 leaders last week branded the BBC "unpatriotic" for screening the investigation so close to the vote, fearing it will lead to a backlash from FIFA members.

Warner told Press Association Sport in an email: "I am sure it's a personal vendetta. But it is sooooooooooo stupid... for it can have no effect on me personally or on anyone else in the FIFA for that matter.

"In my personal opinion, it is deliberately designed to negatively impact on England's chances.

"It is just a rehash of the same old b******* so I continue to sleep very soundly at nights."

The importance that England 2018 attach to Warner can be judged by the fact that Prime Minister David Cameron has invited him to lunch in Zurich ahead of the vote.

Warner is president of the CONCACAF federation and could deliver three of the 22 FIFA executive members' votes to England. He is also a government minister in Trinidad.

Warner said last week that he had still to decide which way he would vote but appeared to write off the chances of Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium, telling Cameron in a phonecall that Russia are England's main rivals.

"If he can overcome the Russian bid, which I think is gaining momentum, he doesn't have a problem," Warner told Trinidad newspaper Newsday. "I don't think he has to worry about the other countries too much."

Warner said he was certain England 2018 would present a compelling argument to FIFA's executive committee.

BBC Panorama responded saying: "Panorama has a reputation for strong, independent and probing investigative journalism. The findings of the Panorama investigation into FIFA will be in the public interest."

FIFA will vote on the 2018 World Cup hosts on December 2 in Zurich, and with just over a week to go England 2018 have dispatched envoys across the world in a last effort to secure votes.

The biggest drive for support will come in Kuala Lumpur, where a four-strong team have headed to the Asian footballer of the year awards.

England 2018 chairman Geoff Thompson, chief executive Andy Anson, ambassador Paul Elliott are being joined by Jeremy Hunt, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport to woo the four Asian FIFA members.

Winning the support of South Korea's Chung Mong-Joon is also hugely important for England but nothing is guaranteed - and he did not vote for them when they bid for the 2006 tournament.

Chung, a FIFA vice-president, has also confirmed that he views the banning of two fellow executive committee members last week following allegations in the Sunday Times as too harsh.

"I personally believe the disciplinary measures on the two executive committee members are excessive," he told reporters in Seoul.

Japan's Junji Ogura is expected to support England, while Mohamed Bin Hammam and Worawi Makudi are thought to be in Spain/Portugal's camp.

David Dein, the former Arsenal and FA vice-chairman who is England 2018's international president, has travelled to Rio de Janeiro where he will hope to have informal meetings with FIFA president Sepp Blatter and Brazil's FIFA member Ricardo Terra Teixeira, before moving on to Paraguay where Nicolas Leoz is the FIFA member.

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