England 2018 makes Russia bid leader complaint

(BBC) England’s 2018 World Cup bid team has lodged a complaint with Fifa against the head of Russia’s rival campaign over comments he made about London.

Russia 2018 chief executive Alexei Sorokin was quoted as criticising high crime rates and the drinking habits of young people in England’s capital.

Fifa has strict rules prohibiting criticism of rival bids.
Sorokin said he would apologise for any “misunderstanding” but not for the comments he claims were misinterpreted.

“I can only apologise for this misunderstanding,” he said. “We have the tapes of the interview and I know for a fact that I didn’t break any rules. I did not try to hurt or discredit our bid rivals, there was no malice intended, I’m 100% sure of that.”

Sorkoin added: “I will provide an explanation to Fifa but I do not feel that what I said originally requires an apology.”

England’s complaint has been made against Sorokin rather than the Russian bid as a whole.

The controversy began last week when Russian paper Sport Express reported Sorokin to have said: “We do not enter into squabbles.

“It’s no secret, for example, that London has the highest crime rate when compared with other European cities, and the highest level of alcohol consumption among young people.”

Sorokin also criticised the British media for its coverage of Russia’s bid as well as referring to Peter Odemwingie, the former Lokomotiv Moscow forward who was the subject of racial abuse before and after he left the Russian club for West Brom.

But Sorokin said Russia’s bid team could explain themselves to governing body Fifa as well as England’s bid team if necessary.

“I am really sorry that because of several interpretations my interview was distorted,” added Sorokin. “In the interview I used London’s problems as an example. Such things are part of life in any big city.

“If you’re talking specifically about my interview in the Sport Express and what the British media made out of it, I must say my words have been distorted in three different stages, creating all the fuss.

“First, people in the Sport Express had interpreted some of my comments in a vague way, not exactly what I was trying to express. Second, much of it was lost in translation from Russian into English and then, the rest was made up by the English journalists themselves.

“Because of all these things the final content came out in a wrong way.”
Russia, England and joint bids from Belgium/Holland and Spain/Portugal are in the running to host the 2018 World Cup.

Qatar, Australia, the United States, Japan and South Korea are contesting the 2022 vote.

The decision on who will host the tournaments will be announced by Fifa on 2 December following a secret ballot.

However, the two bidding processes have been dogged by controversy.

At the weekend the Sunday Times posted a film in which former Fifa general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen appeared to suggest that 2018 bidder Spain/Portugal and 2022 hopeful Qatar had struck a deal to exchange votes. Both bidders have denied all allegations of collusion.

Two Fifa members have also been provisionally suspended for 30 days pending an investigation into allegations that they offered to sell their votes in the 2018 contest when approached by Sunday Times journalists posing as lobbyists for an American consortium.

Zen-Ruffinen has since claimed his allegations were “exaggerated” in an attempt to impress the lobbyists, and added he was “totally against” bribery, but his claims will be used in an investigation which Fifa hopes to have concluded by mid-March.

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