x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Russia dismisses collusion claims

Security concerns are also rejected while the English chief says there is no point in bidding again until voting procedures are changed.

Members of the Russian delegation celebrate after the announcement on Thursday. 

Steffen Schmidt / Keystone / AP Photo
Members of the Russian delegation celebrate after the announcement on Thursday. Steffen Schmidt / Keystone / AP Photo

Alexei Sorokin, Russia's World Cup bid chief, yesterday rejected speculation of collusion in the voting process that saw his country win the right to stage the 2018 tournament.

The Russians beat England and joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Holland to secure the finals.

England were able to win only two votes and were eliminated in the first round. Russia received nine votes in the first round before going on to win a majority of 13 in the second round.

Following the announcements that Russia would host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar the 2022 finals, there was media speculation of collusion between some countries and some of the 22 members of Fifa's executive committee.

Sorokin was adamant that he saw no hint of wrongdoing.

"We never saw any evidence of collusion," Sorokin told Sky Sports News. "The Spanish bid before the vote in their interview said they would have about seven or eight votes and it happened this way, so they were right in their assessment.

"We did not find any spirit or atmosphere of collusion. We are grateful to all Fifa members who supported us.

"We put together a good technical plan and we managed to persuade Fifa and the football community that the World Cup in Russia would really make a difference in the history of football and leave a lasting legacy."

Sorokin was dismissive of calls for Fifa to change the methods it uses to select host countries. "When you, at the beginning of the process, sign up to a certain set of rules you have to abide by them - without any comments, without any doubts.

"If you agree on the rules of the game you have to follow them and it's very late now to comment on something you have to live by during the whole process."

Sorokin also rejected worries over possible security concerns about the finals being staged in Russia.

He said security "will be addressed by perfect organisation of that tournament".

He added: "We have a lot of experience in that we have hosted a lot of international events without a single security issue and World Cup 2018 will not be an exception. It will be very well organised."

Meanwhile, Andy Anson, England's bid chief for the 2018 finals, has claimed it will not be worth the country trying to bid for the World Cup again until Fifa changes the process by which host nations are chosen.

England's poor performance came despite being reportedly told by a number of Fifa members that they would be voting for them, plus the fact they had scored better marks than Russia in Fifa's technical evaluation group.

Anson said yesterday: "I would say right now don't bother [trying to bid again] until you know that the process is going to change to allow bids like ours [a chance] to win.

"When you have the best technical bid, fantastic inspection visits, the best economic report and, from what people told us, the best presentation, it's quite hard to stomach that it seemed to count for absolutely nothing.

"Having only 22 guys voting gives them too much influence. You have to open it up to all member associations and have transparency and open voting so everyone knows who voted for whom."

Japanese chiefs, who lost out in their bid for the 2022 competition, have confirmed they will try again, with a target of hosting the finals by 2050.

Chinese officials also confirmed they will bid for the World Cup eventually, although they cannot try before 2030 because Fifa rules bar the same continent from hosting consecutive World Cup finals.