PM's 'constructive' talks with Fifa official fingered by Panorama

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The controversial football executive at the centre of a BBC Panorama corruption allegation yesterday described his private talks with David Cameron as "constructive" as the Prime Minister arrived in Switzerland to help to push England's 2018 World Cup bid ahead of tomorrow's vote.

Jack Warner, a minister in the Trinidadian government and a former schoolteacher, had a meeting with Mr Cameron in a Zurich hotel yesterday less than 24 hours after a Panorama documentary accused him of attempting an $84,240 [£54,000] ticket fraud at the last World Cup.

Mr Warner is one of the 22 executive committee members of Fifa, football's governing body, who will decide the venue for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals in a secret ballot in Switzerland tomorrow.

He is crucial to England's hopes because he has promised that the region he represents, Concacaf (North and Central America and the Caribbean), will use their three votes en bloc.

Speaking as he returned to his hotel in central Zurich after the talks, Mr Warner praised Mr Cameron's knowledge of football. Mr Warner said: "I was pleased with the talks. They were very constructive. Mr Cameron is a knowledgeable man. He knows about football, but not only that, he knows about the bidding process as well. I certainly trust his knowledge of football."

Despite reservations over Warner – he has been publicly sanctioned before by Fifa over ticket sales – the England bid team have always regarded him and the three votes he controls as crucial to the success of their bid.

Earlier in the day, Mr Cameron refused to address the corruption issues raised by Panorama about Fifa, including the allegation that three further members of the executive committee took bribes.

Mr Cameron said: "I've only got one focus here, and that's trying to bring the World Cup home for England. That's going to be my focus, talking to the decision-makers and pressing them on the brilliance of English football and what we can bring for this bid. That's going to be my concern, nothing else.

"I think we have got a very strong team here – Prince William, David Beckham and myself – and we are going to be making the arguments for England 2018. We think we have got an incredibly strong case, the best technical bid, and I think we can make the biggest commercial success of the World Cup."

Mr Cameron will see as many of the 22 Fifa voters before he returns to attend Prime Minister's Questions today, then return to Switzerland to join Mr Beckham and Prince William, as well as Sir Bobby Charlton. The presence of Mr Cameron in Zurich contrasted with the absence of Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, who had been supposed to lend his support to his country's rival bid for 2018. However, it was hinted last night that Mr Putin will stay away, fuelling suggestions that Russia's bid is unravelling and they fear defeat.

Mr Beckham played football with students and signed autographs at a school in the city yesterday. The former England captain, and linchpin of the 2018 bid's public relations efforts, said that football was "in the English people's DNA".

Comments