England is facing a “real fight” in its bid to host the 2018 World Cup, David Cameron has warned.
The Prime Minister said that the bid is in “great shape” ahead of next week’s crucial vote by the game’s governing body, Fifa, in Zurich.
But he said it is “frustrating” that the BBC is set to screen a Panorama documentary on Monday – just three days before the vote – which is expected to include fresh allegations of corruption within the organisation.
The Sunday Times has already run one investigation in which it exposed two Fifa members who, it said, were prepared to sell their votes and there are fears within the England bid team that the highly critical focus of the British media on Fifa is hurting its chances of success.
Mr Cameron, who is flying out to Zurich next week to throw his weight behind the bid, acknowledged that the timing of the latest Panorama programme was not helpful.
“Is it frustrating that Panorama’s doing this programme a few days before? Of course it is. But it’s a free country and you have to roll with that. I think Fifa will understand that,” he said in an interview with BBC1’s Football Focus to be shown on Saturday.
“I think we also have to try and convince them, yes we’ve got a robust and independent media, but our media love football and when it comes to the World Cup in terms of audience, in terms of the press coverage around the world, actually the media will give it a fantastic boost here in this country.”
Mr Cameron acknowledged that the England bid team faces a tough battle in Zurich against three rival bids but said he is confident that they will have a very strong case to present to the Fifa delegates.
He said: “We’ve got a real fight on our hands in Zurich, but I’m looking forward to it because I think we’ve got a great case to make.”
Mr Cameron will join Prince William, London Mayor Boris Johnson, England manager Fabio Capello and football stars David Beckham, Sir Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole and John Barnes in a 30-strong bid delegation.