Russian president Vladimir Putin has insisted that the 2018 World Cup will go ahead in his country, despite the launch of an investigation into alleged corruption during the bidding process.
And Putin said England’s failure to secure the tournament came about because the bid team did not exhibit their country’s potential as a host.
Prosecutors in Switzerland are conducting an investigation into allegations surrounding Fifa’s handling of the 2010 bidding process, which led to Russia being named hosts for 2018 and Qatar for 2022.
Swiss attorney-general Michael Lauber announced last week that banks in the country reported 53 possible acts of money laundering in what he described as a “huge and complex case” targeting “criminal mismanagement and money-laundering” in the bidding contest.
But Putin said: “If anyone has evidence, let them present it. We won in a fair fight and we are going to host the World Cup. Any other decision we will consider unfair.” The Swiss investigation – which emerged against the backdrop of a separate US probe into bribery claims linked to earlier contests – has led to speculation that the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments may have to be reopened.
Lauber made clear last week that he was prepared for either Russia or Qatar to be stripped of host status, saying: “I don’t mind if this has some collateral somewhere else.”
Putin was asked whether he would support the bidding process being reopened if evidence of corruption was uncovered. He replied: “We won through legal means. Great Britain did not exhibit all their potential for what it needed to do to win the World Cup.
“We don’t think we are guilty of anything. We don’t think the decision can be changed. Construction of the stadia has begun and the next World Cup is very soon.”
Putin made his comments to news agencies on the fringes of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.