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World Cup 2018 bid chief Lord Triesman resigns in disgrace

May 17, 2010

Lord Triesman with his wife and Prince William at yesterday's FA Cup final

The chairman of England’s 2018 World Cup Bid, Lord Triesman, has resigned after he suggested that Spain and Russia were working together to bribe referees at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Lord Triesman, who is also to resign his post as Chairman of the FA, made the remarks in a conversation two weeks ago with a former aide, which was recorded and published in today’s Mail on Sunday.

The 66-year-old Labour peer was heard to suggest that Spain might drop its joint bid with Portugal for the 2018 World Cup in return for Russian bribes at this year’s tournament.

The England 2018 team has faxed apologies to the Russian and Spanish FAs, as well as FIFA.

Lord Triesman was in Zurich with David Beckham on Friday to hand over England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

In a statement, Lord Triesman said: “I have decided to resign as chairman of the FA and the 2018 Bid board. A private conversation with someone whom I thought to be a friend was taped without my knowledge and passed to a national newspaper.

“In that conversation I commentated on speculation circulating about conspiracies around the world. Those comments were never intended to be taken seriously, as indeed is the case with many private conversations.

“Entrapment, especially by a friend, is an unpleasant experience both for my family and me but it leaves me with no alternative but to resign.”

The “friend” in question is former civil servant, Melissa Jacobs, who he employed as a private secretary during his time as Minister at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson told the BBC: “It is absolutely the right decision to take. Our top priority, as a new government, is to win this bid for the country, and I am delighted they have acted as quickly and decisively as they have done.

“All is not lost, we would rather we weren’t dealing with the situation but it is better that it has happened now, so soon after handing over the bid book, rather than two or three months out.

“It is not good for the organisation and it would be ludicrous to pretend otherwise, but the fundamentals that underpin the bid are as strong as ever and will be remembered long after this unfortunate event is forgotten.”

During the conversation, Triesman discussed the progress of England’s bid and the attempts to woo the 24 members of FIFA’s executive committee, who will decide the venue of the 2018 World Cup.

“I think the Africans we are doing very well with,” he said.” I think we’re doing kind of well with some of the Asians. Probably doing well with Central and North America. 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.”

The FA tried unsuccessfully to get an injunction on publication of the story on privacy grounds.

The incident is the latest setback for the FA in what has proved an error-strewn bid thus far.

In October, FIFA vice-president Jack Warner and Danny Jordaan, who led South Africa’s successful 2010 campaign, both criticised England’s 2018 bid.

Birmingham City director Karren Brady stood down from the board in November, saying that England’s hopes of hosting the 2018 World Cup were in danger of being undermined by internal politics.

Also that month, the bid team handed out handbags to the wives of members of Fifa’s executive committee – a move that was widely condemned.

FA chief executive Ian Watmore resigned in March after growing exasperated by the inner workings of the FA.

FIFA will decide the venue of the 2018 World Cup in December. Europe is tipped to be FIFA’s favoured choice, with Russia and Spain/Portugal the serious contenders, along with England.

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