Inside Lines: Russian giant threatens to KO England's big bid hope

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The Independent Online

A second Anglo-Russian David v Goliath battle beckons after Haye and Valuev have settled their sizeable differences next month. Enter the ring Lord David Triesman, who will need to topple another giant (albeit one of politics not pugilism), one Vladimir Putin, if England's beleaguered 2018 World Cup bid is to be successful. The former Russian president, now prime minister, is set to be the figurehead of his country's now confirmed bid to emerge as England's most serious rivals. Having a first World Cup in eastern Europe could be as appealing to Fifa as giving an Olympics debut to South America was to the IOC, and there is no doubt that judo black belt Putin will play as significant a role as he did when his brand of friendly persuasion helped Russia snatch the 2014 Winter Games for Sochi. England bid leader Triesman, resisting pressure to step down from the £100,000-a-year part-time seat he occupies as well as the FA chair, will need to up his, and England's, game with Putin putting himself about and Russia's sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, being close to the Fifa president Sepp Blatter, who admits to "a wholehearted affinity for the Russian bid" while the IOC president, Jacques Rogge, warns "never underestimate the capacity of the Russians". While the jibes of that noxious buffoon Jack Warner have provoked an overdue revamping of England's bid team, with Karren Brady brought in to add a little glam and gumption alongside Paul Elliott, a welcome personable black presence, some insiders feel the single-minded Triesman should sub himself and find a Seb Coe-like figure to strike up front. While David Beckham will be as invaluable in midfield as he was for London 2012, you can't imagine him giving the keynote address. But Gary Lineker's name is mentioned as one who has the lucidity, the media presence and the profile to put England's message across.

Irish FA accused of 'racism'

Northern Ireland football chiefs face an allegation of racism when the former chief executive Howard Wells takes them to an industrial tribunal next month following his sacking a year ago. Wells, 62, is claiming wrongful dismissal and will cite "victimisation on the grounds of being English" as one of the reasons. The ex-Wycombe goalkeeper, one of Britain's most experienced sports bosses, who has headed UK Sport, was appointed after the Northern Ireland government sought reforms within the Irish FA. He was responsible for several successful commercial deals in his four-year spell, including one with Sky. The case, likely to send shockwaves through football, will be heard in Belfast on 16 November.

Oh no he isn't...

Jess Willard was the tallest world heavyweight champion before the Klitschkos, not Jack Sharkey, as several readers have pointed out. Wrist duly slapped. Last week's interview with boxing behemoth Nikolay Valuev also drew an observation from one mischievous blogger that he particularly enjoyed my panto allusions (Jack and the Beanstalk etc) especially as they came from someone who looked like Humpty Dumpty! Ouch.