Inside Lines: Blow for England as Russia take the Roman road to 2018

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The Independent Online

Just when it seemed England had steadied the ship, the Russian government have launched a torpedo into the turbulent waters of the 2018 World Cup by inviting Roman Abramovich to throw his weight, and considerable wealth, behind their attempt to play hosts. It is an offer the Chelsea owner is unlikely to refuse, especially as prime minister Vladimir Putin will also be putting himself about on the bidding scene, as he did so visibly in helping to clinch the next Winter Olympics for Sochi. This pair's involvement underlines the growing feeling that Russia are emerging as the most formidable threat to England, not least because both have the ear of Fifa boss Sepp Blatter, who is keen to take the World Cup into fresh territory. No Eastern European country has staged the competition and Blatter has twice hobnobbed with Russian leaders in Moscow recently when he was said to be "seeking an update" on their progress from Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, the man who has forced the resignation of Russia's Olympic chief following the nation's worst Winter Games since the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991. Blatter has been named the most powerful figure in world sport by the Olympic website Around the Rings, and to get him on England's side it might need the Queen to flatter Blatter.

Suits you, sir

London's mayor has a first name familiar in Russia, but Boris Johnson's sartorial sense was not admired by his opposite number from Sochi when the latter watched Johnson accept the Olympic flag from Beijing's mayor, jacket unbuttoned and as usual somewhat dishevelled. Anatoly Pakhomov was suited and booted when taking the Winter Games flag in Vancouver. He bought a new suit and kept it buttoned because, "I'm representing a great city of Russia and wouldn't do something embarrassing." Button up? No, lighten up.

No Khan do?

Haroon Khan's hopes of boxing for Pakistan in 2012 after being overlooked for the GB squad – as revealed here last week – may hit a snag according to British Amateur Boxing Association chair Derek Mapp, because IOC guidelines say there must be a three-year gap between competing for different countries, and Amir's kid brother has already boxed for England. However, Mapp says: "We do not think this is the best route for him in any event," which suggests the GB door could still be open for "Baby Khan", whose big brother's American debut against Paulie Malignaggi will be confirmed this week for 5 May at a 5,000-seater arena in Madison Square Garden.

Amy's pot of gold

The delightful Amy Williams paraded her gold medal and talismanic bob skeleton Arthur when she returned from Vancouver this week but not her aerodynamically designed helmet, the subject of churlish protests from Canada and the US. Her coach, Andi Schmidt, said: "She could have gone down with a teapot on her head and it wouldn't have made a scrap of difference, she was so far ahead of the rest."

insidelines@independent.co.uk

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