Putin decides not to travel


Soccer:England’s 2018 World Cup bid received a huge boost today after Vladimir Putin, prime minister of Russia, confirmed he would not be travelling to Zurich for the World Cup vote.

Russia are one of England’s main rivals and Putin appeared to criticise the Fifa process by saying his country had faced “unscrupulous competition”.

Putin’s remarks cast a major doubt against Russia’s hopes and now Spain/Portugal look to be England’s main rivals to win tomorrow’s vote by Fifa’s executive committee.

The bidding process has been overshadowed by allegations of collusion between Spain/Portugal and 2022 bidders Qatar, and the Sunday Times investigation into Fifa members that led to six officials being banned.

Reports coming out of Russia quoted Putin as saying: “I would have liked to have gone myself but in these conditions I have decided not to travel . . . so that they can make a decision without any pressure from the outside.”

Putin said deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov would attend Thursday’s vote and that Russia had faced “unscrupulous competition”.