Russia’s 2018 World Cup bid leader has highlighted London’s “high crime rate” and youth alcohol problems in an interview which appears to contravene FIFA’s bidding rules prohibiting comments about rival bidders.
Alexei Sorokin first insisted that the Russian bid did not want to get in public squabbles with England before going on to denigrate their 2018 bid rivals.
Sorokin, chief executive of the bid, told Russian daily Sport Express: “We do not enter into squabbles, although we have much to say. It’s no secret, for example, that in London they have the highest crime rate compared with other European cities, and the highest level of alcohol consumption among young people.”
Sorokin went on to again insist that a banner with a picture of a banana aimed at West Brom’s striker Peter Odemwingie and produced by fans of his former club Lokomotiv Moscow was not racist, and he points out that anti-Glazer fans had burned an American flag at Old Trafford on the same day.
He said: “We could have a conversation about the lack of tolerance and the inciting of ethnic hatred by English fans. But we do not behave like someone who is always saying bad things about their neighbours.
“The banner was not a racist one. It was directed against a particular player who got very good money, lived very well here, but for some reason did not seem to want to play well.
“Racism is a common problem, not just in Russia. All soccer countries have had this, including Britain. Naturally, we must fight this and in the Russian Football Union we have a programme to combat all forms of racism.”
FIFA’s rules specifically forbid bidding countries denigrating their opponents but it is unclear whether Sorokin could face any action.
FIFA’s ethics committee is more focused on dealing with the fall-out from the weekend’s bribery expose and investigating claims that two bidding countries colluded over votes.
The sport’s world governing body announced last night that they have widened the scope of their investigation to probe suggestions that at least two countries bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups cut a deal over votes, something that is also against bid rules.
Meanwhile, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against the two FIFA executive committee members, Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii, who were exposed by a Sunday Times investigation as having asked undercover reporters for cash in return for their World Cup votes.
The pair will be dealt with by FIFA’s ethics committee tomorrow, and the same body is to separately investigate whether at least two countries campaigning to host the 2018 and/or 2022 tournaments breached bidding rules.
Both the two men and the countries involved could be suspended by the ethics committee.
England are bidding for 2018 against Russia, Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium while the 2022 tournament hosts will be from Australia, the United States, Qatar, Japan and South Korea.
England had targeted Adamu as one of the crucial ’neutral votes’ they needed to win the World Cup bidding contest.
Bid officials arranged for David Beckham to meet the Nigerian in Cape Town in November last year, while Andy Cole and then bid chairman Lord Triesman flew to Nigeria the following month to make a formal presentation to Adamu, a Manchester United supporter.
Adamu’s vote was seen as vital in that he was one of four African FIFA members and no African nations can bid for either 2018 and 2022.