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England try to stem 'negative' corruption fall-out

England 2018 bid chiefs have written to all members of FIFA's executive stressing they've had nothing to do with two recent British media probes into corruption allegations surrounding the World Cup bidding process.

sports Updated: Nov 15, 2010 21:44 IST

England 2018 bid chiefs have written to all members of FIFA's executive stressing they've had nothing to do with two recent British media probes into corruption allegations surrounding the World Cup bidding process.

The letter, a copy of which has been seen by AFP, urges all members of the 24-man FIFA executive committee which will vote for the 2018 World Cup hosts on December 2 to avoid making "negative" judgments about the bid as a result of the media furore.

There are concerns amongst the England 2018 team of a possible anti-English backlash as a result of an investigation by the Sunday Times newspaper which has led to several FIFA members facing an ethics committee probe.

And they fear an edition of the BBC's Panorama programme investigating alleged FIFA corruption, set to be screened just three days before the vote, could wreck England's hopes of staging the World Cup for the first time since 1966 --- the only occasion when England have won the tournament.

The letter, signed by bid chairman Geoff Thompson, also a FIFA vice-president, said: "We hope England's bid will not be judged negatively due to the activities of individual media organisations, regardless of one's view of their conduct.

"We hope you appreciate that we have no control over the British media."

The letter adds it was England 2018 who first alerted FIFA to the 'front' company which turned out to be a cover for the Sunday Times 'sting' operation.

"Rest assured we have done all we can to assist FIFA and its members during recent weeks. It was members of the England bid which alerted the FIFA general secretary, on September 29, to the activities of a bogus company which turned out to be the Sunday Times investigation."

As for the Panorama programme, England 2018 said the BBC were "raking over allegations some of which are up to 10 years old" and that they had made representations to the broadcaster.

"The England bid stands on its own above any such activities, representing our country as a whole, and the millions of fans who are desperate to see a World Cup in England," said the letter from the 2018 team.

The letter also suggests FIFA would not face years of renewed scrutiny in the British media were England to host the 2018 World Cup.

"Concern over what the future might hold for FIFA in its relationship with the British media if we were to be successful should also be dismissed.

"We are sure that FIFA would receive a positive reception and can use this unprecedented platform to generate increased awareness for its partners and stakeholders and the promotion of the game globally.

"We all want a FIFA World Cup vote to focus on the positive elements of the overall bidding process."

Details of the letter came to light on the same day as FIFA's ethics committee began a three-day meeting to probe corruption allegations in the bidding process for both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

England, Russia and joint bids by Spain-Portugal and Netherlands-Belgium are in the running to host the 2018 World Cup, with Australia, the United States, Japan, Qatar, Russia and South Korea in contention for 2022.