Hunt: Panorama will not affect bid

28 November 2010 01:00

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been assured by FIFA delegates that England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup will not be adversely affected by Monday's Panorama programme.

Bid leader Andy Anson accused the BBC of being "unpatriotic" for choosing to broadcast an investigation into FIFA three days before the vote to decide the 2018 hosts. There have also been reports that the Sunday Times expose on corruption within FIFA, which led to two delegates being suspended, had caused anti-English sentiment.

But Hunt said he has spoken to nearly half of the FIFA delegates - including an unnamed member of the ethics committee - and received assurances that their vote would be cast on the quality of England's bid alone and he told Sportsweek on BBC Radio 5 Live: "I hope that is the case. All the FIFA delegates I have spoken to have assured me that is the case."

He continued: "I am the secretary of state responsible for the media and I strongly defend the fact we have a free media that operate at arm's length to the government.

"I did speak to one member of the FIFA ethics committee when I was in Kuala Lumpur and he said to me he recognised the government had no control over the media in England, nor should it, and he was confident that wouldn't affect the England 2018 bid and I very much hope it is right.

"We are going into this week very upbeat. I really think we can win this."

England are competing with Russia and joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium for the right to host the 2018 World Cup although Hunt conceded England are underdogs heading into the vote on December.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham will all travel to Zurich this week for the final stages of the lobbying process before FIFA's executive committee vote on December 2. Hunt believes the 22 voting delegates are beginning to realise England's bid is best for the global game.

"Of course we believe that (England is the best bid) and I think in their heart of hearts they know that too. They know how much England put into the global game," he said. "It is going to be very close and we have to work for every single vote.

"What we want to demonstrate with David Cameron there, Prince William there and all the stars we will bring with us, the commitment to making 2018 a success comes from the very top and there is nothing we won't do to make it a huge, huge success."

Source: PA