Style over substance could win World Cup bid claims senior Fifa figure

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The Independent Online

The bidding contest for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups exploded into controversy today with one senior FIFA figure admitting the best bids may not win and another appearing to accuse the United States of dirty tricks.

Asian Federation president Mohamed Bin Hammam said the countries with the best marketing campaign may triumph rather than the best bid, and admitted that deals for votes will be taking place despite being banned by FIFA rules.

Meanwhile, Korea's FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-Joon - a possible challenger to Sepp Blatter in the presidential election in May - made a thinly-veiled attack against 2022 rivals the USA.

England 2018 have prided themselves on the quality of their bid, but Bin Hammam's remarks may cause some concern.

Bin Hammam said: "Whether the best candidates for 2018 and 2022 are going to win or not I'm not 100% sure because this depends more on public relations and how as a marketing person you sell your product.

"There is also a lack of clear written criteria. All the nine candidates today have their strong points and their weak points and you have to make a judgement yourself."

Bin Hammam, a Qatari, said vote trading among FIFA executive committee members would be taking place.

He told the Leaders in Football conference: "I will be naturally looking to the interests of Qatar because that is the bid for me. All the bidders are telling me 'Okay, if you vote for me I will vote for you,'.

"That must not be surprising to anybody. We the four members from the AFC have decided we would like to see 2022 in Asia and we are very frank about that.

"I'm talking about myself as a Qatari voter, I'm not talking about other committee members."

Chung's allegations are potentially even more devastating after he claimed there were "lingering suspicions" that a 2022 bid rival planted stories that China might bid for 2026 in order to sway support away from other Asian countries.

With the European countries expected to concentrate solely on bidding for 2018, there is just one 2022 bidder which is not part of the Asian Federation and that is the USA, whose bid team are privately furious at Chung's remarks.

Chung said: "In spite of [China's] denial, the atmosphere within the AFC is not free from lingering suspicion that the rival bidding country might have entertained a wishful thinking to sway the bidding competition in its favour.

"FIFA attaches great value to the spirit of fair play and gentlemanly behaviour in football. My Asian colleagues believe that, if true, such attempts definitely deserve a yellow card, if not red."

The USA's FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer has referred to the report of a China bid on his Twitter account. Blazer wrote above the link: "China 2026 bid strengthens United States 2022 campaign."

Meanwhile, Chung said he will consider challenging Blatter in next May's FIFA presidential election.

Chung said: "I have not thought of doing so before seriously but now I will think about it. It's still too early to say there will be no contender next May.

"In order to keep a large organisation like FIFA healthy you need healthy competition."

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