English score embarrassing own goal in World Cup bid
England's hopes of hosting football's 2018 World Cup were plunged into chaos yesterday as the chairman of the bid committee quit amid claims he accused rival nations of corruption.
David Triesman also resigned from his high-profile post as chairman of the country's Football Association (FA) following allegations he made comments about Spain and Russia planning to bribe referees.
England's 2018 bid team has faxed apology letters to the Russian and Spanish FAs as it tries to rescue the World Cup bid following the revelations in an English tabloid yesterday.
In a statement released through the FA, Mr Triesman (66) announced his resignation and said he had been a victim of entrapment.
Mr Triesman's embarrassing resignation came after the newspaper claimed he had told a 37-year-old former aide -- with whom it is claimed he had had a relationship -- that Spain would end its bid to host the 2018 World Cup if rival bidder Russia helped them to bribe referees in South Africa.
His departure comes less than a month before England's players fly out to South Africa.
Mr Triesman's statement read: "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. That same friend has also chosen to greatly exaggerate the extent of our friendship.
"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. The views expressed were not the views of the 2018 bid board or the FA.
"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. I have immediately informed the FA board of my decision."
Both the FA and the 2018 bid team had earlier distanced themselves from Mr Triesman's claims and faxed the Russian and Spanish football authorities, as well as FIFA, football's governing body, to apologise for the embarrassment caused.
According to the report in the 'Mail on Sunday', the Labour peer alleged that votes from Spanish members of FIFA would switch to Russia for 2018 if they supported a plan to pay off officials in South Africa.
"Spain are looking for help . . . to bribe the referees," he was quoted as saying.
The claims were made in a recorded hour-long meeting with former aide Melissa Jacobs. The FA failed in a bid to have an injunction imposed on the publication of the article.
Hugh Robertson, the new UK sports minister, said Mr Triesman had been left with little choice but to resign.
"Our top priority. . . is to win this bid for the country and I am delighted they have acted as quickly and decisively as they have done."
And the revelations come just days after David Beckham presented the English bid to FIFA and spoke of the "passion and emotion" that the nation would bring to the tournament.