Monday, November 29, 1999

England 2018 bid rocked as Triesman steps down

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England's hopes of hosting the 2018 World Cup were rocked on Sunday when bid chief David Triesman stood down following a newspaper report in which he appeared to make bribery allegations against rival bidders.The Mail on Sunday published the contents of what it said was a secretly taped private conversation between Triesman, who is also chairman of the Football Association (FA), and a former aide from his time as a government minister.Triesman reportedly suggested that World Cup favourites Spain, with the help of Russia, were seeking to bribe referees at next month's finals in South Africa.Sources confirmed that Triesman had stood down while England 2018 chiefs moved quickly to distance themselves from his reported comments, saying that apologies had been faxed to their Spanish and Russian counterparts as well as governing body FIFA.A World Cup 2018 bid spokesman said Triesman's alleged comments in no way represented their own views.Triesman, whose position as chairman of the FA could now be in jeopardy, was quoted as saying Russia could help Spain bribe referees in return for Spain withdrawing its own bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Russia's bid received high praise from FIFA president Sepp Blatter this month.Russia responded with their bid chief calling on FIFA's ethical commission to deal with the situation."From the very beginning we've been committed to maintaining the ethical norms and the principles of fair play in our World Cup campaign," Alexei Sorokin told Reuters."I don't know why there are so many rumours regarding Russia's World Cup bid. Maybe because we're moving in the right direction and our rivals see us as a major force and try to derail our bid campaign."The FA, which the Mail on Sunday said had failed in an attempt to get a High Court injunction preventing publication of Triesman's conversation, declined to comment.RIGHT DECISIONNewly-appointed Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said Triesman's decision to stand down was the correct one, adding that he doubted it would cause long-term harm to England's bid to host the World Cup for the first time since 1966."It's sad for him personally but is absolutely the right decision to take," he told Sky Sports. "Our top priority as a new government is to win this bid for the country and I am delighted they have acted quickly and decisively."It's certainly not good news. However, you have to remember that these things do blow over and once that happens the fundamental strengths of the bid are still there."While 66-year-old Triesman's comments were made in private, once they became public they rendered his position untenable."I think the Africans we are doing very well with. I think we're doing kind of well with some of the Asians. Probably doing well with Central and North America," Triesman, who joined Beckham in Zurich last week and on Saturday sat next to Prince William at the FA Cup final, was quoted as saying."My assumption is that the Latin Americans, although they've not said so, will vote for Spain. And if Spain drop out, because Spain are looking for help from the Russians to help bribe the referees in the World Cup, their votes may then switch to Russia."In other extracts published by the Mail he gave his views on Chelsea's John Terry, who was stripped of the England captaincy following tabloid revelations about his private life.Triesman became the first independent chairman of the FA in 2008, vowing to modernise the organisation and provide better regulation of the finances of the English game.However, he has been criticised in his role as head of the 2018 bid which has suffered a series of public relations setbacks, including an accusation that it was "lightweight" by FIFA vice president Jack Warner.England's bid, outlined in a glossy 1,700-page book presented by David Beckham at FIFA headquarters last week, is regarded as a front runner for the vote in December but they face opposition from Russia, the joint bid from Spain and Portugal as well as Australia, the United States and Belgium-Netherlands.(Ed Osmond, To query or comment on this story email
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