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Coe leads England 2018 World cup bid fightback

Article Published: Monday 17 May 2010

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Sebastian Coe has insisted England's campaign to host the World Cup in 2018 can recover from the debacle that led to the resignation of bid chairman Lord David Triesman at the weekend.

Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 Olympics, is also on the 2018 bid board and has taken the leading role in the damage limitation operation mounted in the aftermath of Triesman's resignation.

Triesman stepped down on Sunday following the publication of remarks in which he repeated conspiratorial speculation that bid rivals Spain could drop out of the battle to host the 2018 tournament in return for Russia helping them to bribe referees at this year's finals in South Africa.

Coe is understood to have briefed FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke about the situation and was due to speak to Sepp Blatter, the President of football's world governing body FIFA, whose executive committee will decide on the hosts for 2018 and 2022 at the end of this year.

"This has been a traumatic 48 hours but this does not become a bad bid overnight," Coe said.

"Solid foundations are in place, we have the best venues, the most passionate fans, the best market for sponsors and an unparalleled ability to deliver this tournament in safe and secure surroundings.

"The only thing we don't have is the private views of the former chairman."

The reaction from Spain and Russia to Triesman's comments, which were made in a secretly recorded conversation with a former aide, has been restrained in public but the English bid team expect his gaffe to be exploited behind the scenes to undermine England's chances of hosting the tournament for the first time since 1966.

Spanish football federation secretary general Jorge Perez Arias said the idea Spain, one of the favourites to win this year's tournament, would seek to bribe referees was "ridiculous."

He added: "As far as 2018 goes, we're trying to progress our bid to host the competition with Portugal. If we win that would be wonderful and if another country is chosen, we'd be happy as well because all the candidates are good."

Gilberto Madail, the President of Portugal's FA, which is jointly bidding for 2018 with Spain, said Triesman's allegations were "indicative of an uneasiness on the part of England." That was a theme echoed by Russian bid chief Aleksey Sorokin, who has called for FIFA to "take appropriate measures," over Triesman's comments.

"It is a sign that we are going in the right direction, that the quality of our bid leaves no other alternative for our competitors but to bring up these absurd allegations," Sorokin said.

British Sports Minister Hugh Robertson acknowledged that Triesman's unguarded comments -- which he insisted "were never intended to be taken seriously" -- had damaged England's chances of success.

"I don't think anybody would pretend it's been particularly helpful," Robertson said.

But, like Coe, he believes the bid is not fatally compromised.

He added: "Whatever Lord Triesman may or may not have said, he didn't attack Sepp Blatter personally, or the entire integrity of either FIFA or UEFA.

"In some ways this is an offence of a much lesser order."

Triesman has been replaced as bid chairman by Geoff Thompson, a FIFA vice-president and a veteran of international football politics. His role at the Football Association is to be shared between former Ipswich chairman David Sheepshanks and Robert Burden.




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