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Uefa chief plays down bribe claims

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Uefa chief Michel Platini said England's World Cup 2012 bid would not be affected by allegations of corruption

England’s 2018 World Cup bid will not be affected by the Panorama investigation into alleged Fifa bribes, according to Uefa president Michel Platini.

The BBC documentary accused three Fifa executive committee members of accepting “corrupt” payments and alleged that Fifa vice-president Jack Warner attempted to supply ticket touts. It was transmitted just three days before the crucial vote to decide who hosts the 2018 competition.

Platini claimed the expose, shown on Monday night, would not directly affect the bidding process, but warned the British media’s arduous relationship with football’s international governing body could jeopardise England’s chances of success.

“I don’t think this (programme) will have an effect, no – but I think what may affect the decision is the atmosphere going back a long time and what people have been writing about Fifa in the British press for many years,” he said.

The BBC has been heavily criticised over the timing of the Panorama screening, with England’s World Cup bid team branding it “an embarrassment”.

The controversy comes as Prince William, Prime Minister David Cameron and David Beckham travel to Fifa’s headquarters in Zurich in an attempt to lobby support before Thursday’s deciding vote. England face competition from Russia, Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium and will need to gain the support of 12 members of Fifa’s 22-strong committee.

African confederation president Issa Hayatou, whose vote England 2018 had high hopes of capturing, Brazil’s Ricardo Terra Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay were all accused by Panorama of taking payments. Mr Warner is the subject of accusations that he “ordered (2010 World Cup) tickets costing 84,240 US dollars from the Fifa ticket office but the deal subsequently fell through”. The four men are all part of the electorate who will vote on the 2018 and 2022 hosts.

Critics of the BBC’s decision to screen the programme also drew on the fact that the allegations were not linked to World Cup votes and all relate to payments made between 21 and 11 years ago by the collapsed company ISL, which had been awarded the marketing rights to successive World Cups by Fifa.

An England 2018 statement said: “We stand by our previous position that the BBC’s Panorama did nothing more than rake over a series of historical allegations none of which are relevant to the current bidding process. It should be seen as an embarrassment to the BBC.”

Panorama claims its investigation was in the public interest and defended the timing of the programme. A spokesman said: “The programme is in the public interest and shows that some Fifa executives involved in making decisions about the 2018 bid have a history of taking bribes – and that Fifa has consistently failed to act. Delay until after the bid was not an option once it became clear that the winning nations might have been chosen by officials with a proven track record of corruption.”

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