Russia defend World Cup bid campaign

Russia's World Cup bid leader has insisted they have been scrupulous in observing the rules in their campaign against England for the 2018 World Cup and claimed that racism is not an issue in the country.

The Russians are viewed as England's biggest rivals to host the 2018 tournament - joint bids by Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium are also in the contest - and are pushing their message that FIFA can take the World Cup to a new territory.

Bid chief executive Alexei Sorokin said as far as Russia were concerned, the race had been a clean one.

England's campaign faced a major challenge in May when bid chairman Lord Triesman was forced to resign following newspaper allegations - described as "rather peculiar circumstances" by 2018 chief executive Andy Anson - just days after their successful bid book launch.

Triesman was taped telling a friend that there were rumours about Spain and Russia doing a deal.

David Beckham also had to face negative headlines soon after the England midfielder's successful trip to Trinidad to meet FIFA chiefs leading to further conspiracy theories.

Asked about such suggestions, Sorokin said: "We usually don't comment on rumours. The only thing I can say is that we have been observing the rules very strictly. We haven't given FIFA any hard time with stupid complaints or fake scandals and we intend to do so until the end of the race.

"We have been focused on the benefits of our bid and will be for the next two months.

"I honestly do not think it has any ramification on Russia whatsoever. The ideas that are floating around are ludicrous.

"We are just sad for our English fellow competitors that it happened to them this way. I honestly do not think that is going to be a factor for the progress of their bid."

Russia are committed to spending about US 6billion on infrastructure if their bid is successful - Anson told the Leaders in Football conference in London that the cost to England would be zero.

Russia's biggest issue to deal with has been that of racism, particularly after their FA did not sanction Lokomotiv Moscow when their fans erected a banner with a picture of a banana saying 'Thanks West Brom' following the transfer of Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie to the Midlands club.

But Sorokin said: "Racism and its manifestations is a universal problem for the football world, no matter where you are. We can't take one minor outbreak here and there and blow a tendency out of it.

"There is a very strong voice in Russia that condemns racism and sanctions against it. We do not perceive ourselves as a country that has a problem with that.

"If you ask the average Russian these questions about racism they wouldn't understand you. This does not represent our mindset. It is something that is severely overblown."