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Friday, 8 October 2010

Russia's 2018 World Cup bid team deny that racism is a big issue

Russia's 2018 World Cup bid have denied that problems with racism in domestic football could derail their campaign, and rejected suggestions that they have been behind a dirty-tricks campaign against England.

A racist banner displayed by Lokomotiv Moscow fans following the sale of Peter Odemwinge to West Bromwich Albion focused attention on the attitude of supporters, but bid chief Alexei Sorokin, attending the Leaders in Football conference in London, said there was no truth in suggestions that the problem is endemic.

"Racism and its manifestations is a universal problem for the football world, no matter where you are. We can't take one minor outbreak here and there and blow a tendency out of it. There is a very strong voice in Russia that condemns racism and sanctions against it," Sorokin said.

Sorokin also rejected suggestions that the Russian bid was behind recent allegations about David Beckham's private life, and the sting that saw former FA chairman Lord Triesman resign having made unsubstantiated allegations that the Spanish and Russians had colluded to bribe referees at the World Cup.

"We usually don't comment on rumours and the things you just mentioned. The only thing I can say is that we have been observing the rules very strictly.

We haven't given Fifa any hard time with stupid complaints or fake scandals and we intend to do so until the end of the race.

"We have been focused on the benefits of our bid and will be for the next two months. I honestly do not think it has any ramification on Russia whatsoever.

"The ideas that are floating around are ludicrous. We are just sad for our English fellow competitors that it happened to them this way. I honestly do not think that is going to be a factor for the progress of their bid."
Sorokin declined to discuss whether a Russian World Cup would produce a profit for Fifa. England have promised a £161m profit, but Russia is understood to have forecast a loss in their bid book. Sorokin said that the figures, required for the bid book, had not been finalised.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has accepted an invitation from Prime Minister David Cameron to meet him in Downing Street next week to discuss the 2018 bid.