Leading article: An honourable bid, and a bitter defeat

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However much Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, attempted to invoke football's higher ideals in the run-up to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup announcements yesterday, the unavoidable conclusion at the end of a day of huge disappointment for the England delegation was that this was far from the international game's finest moment.

There will be those who call this sour grapes, and after the outstanding effort put in by the England bid team to bring the tournament to these shores for the first time since 1966, defeat would have been hard to take under any circumstances. But there are now so many questions surrounding football's world governing body – the unchecked power it wields, the agendas it follows, its fierce resistance to outside scrutiny, the allegedly corrupt behaviour of some of its delegates – that the awarding of the 2018 tournament to Russia, and with it the complete sidelining of the England bid, cannot but leave a bitter taste.

The extent of the contribution to the defeat played by British media exposés of apparent Fifa wrongdoing will be fiercely debated. But whatever impact The Sunday Times and the BBC's Panorama programme might have had on proceedings, it seems that Fifa's gaze was always directed east, and not even the combined talents of David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham were enough to distract its attention for long. The fact that Vladimir Putin absented himself from the announcement in Zurich had been seen as a sign that he had given up on his country's bid. In fact it looks as if he knew that the Cup was in the bag all along.

Nobody should begrudge Russian football fans the opportunity to experience the tournament on their own soil for the first time since the World Cup began in 1930. A new name is added to the list of host nations, and it was perhaps anomalous that a country of Russia's size and footballing pedigree had had to wait so long for the honour of staging football's greatest pageant. But in a week when Mr Putin has joined Fifa in finding himself at the centre of corruption allegations, it is reasonable to ask whether matters were conducted on an entirely level playing field.

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