FA chief resigns from bid chairman role over bribe claims

LONDON (AFP) – Lord Triesman resigned as chairman of England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup finals according to the BBC after it was revealed in the 'Mail on Sunday' he had claimed that Spain and Russia were planning to bribe referees at June's World Cup finals.

Triesman, who will stay on at least for the time being as chairman of the Football Association, had little choice after the revelations emerged dealing a hammerblow to England's hopes of hosting their first World Cup finals since 1966 - the only time they have also lifted the trophy.

Former England captain David Beckham with bid chairman Lord Triesman (left) at FIFA's headquarters in Zurich. AFP photo

Both Spain - who are bidding jointly with Portugal - and Russia are competing to host the 2018 edition and Lord Triesman - a former Labour government minister - told his former mistress Melissa Jacobs that he feared they would collude to stop England winning the right to host the event.

However, after Triesman and the FA failed in a bid to have an injunction imposed on the publication of the article and following the revelations he has stepped down, while the bid team have faxed letters of apology to both the Spanish and Russian Football Associations.

Hugh Robertson, the new Sports Minister, said Triesman had had no option but to resign from his post.

"Its absolutely the right decision to take," he told the BBC.

"Our top priority as a new government is to win this bid for the country and I am delighted that they (the bid team) have acted as quickly and decisively as they have done.

"All is not lost, we would rather we weren't dealing with the situation but it is better that it has happened now, so soon after handing over the bid book, rather than two to three months out," added the 47-year-old.

Jacobs revealed to the 'Mail on Sunday' that Triesman - who on Saturday sat beside Prince William at the FA Cup final which Chelsea won 1-0 against Portsmouth - had confided in her his fears over the Spain/Russia partnership, a conversation that she tape recorded.

"There's some evidence that the Spanish football authorities are trying to identify the referees....and pay them," said Triesman.

Triesman then related to Jacobs - who had the conversation with him after she ended their relationship because she was uncomfortable having an affair with a married man - how he thought the bid was progressing in terms of votes.

"I think the Africans we are doing very well with. I think we're doing kind of well with some of the Asians.

"Probably doing well with Central and North America. My assumption is that the Latin Americans, although they have not said so, will vote for Spain. And if Spain drop out, because Spain are looking for help from the Russians to help bribe the referees in the World Cup, their votes may then switch to Russia."

Jacobs, a 37-year-old civil servant who was employed by 66-year-old Triesman when he was a Minister at the Department for Innovation, Univesities and Skills, then claims that she asked Triesman if Russia would help Spain in bribing referees.

"Oh, I think Russia will cut deals," replied Triesman, saying that Russia would do so because they had nothing to lose as their team failed to reach the finals.

Neither the Spanish Football Federation nor the Russian Football Union refused to comment on the claims when asked to by the 'Mail on Sunday', though, FIFA are unlikely to be impressed as the head of their referees committe is the head of the Spanish FA, Angel Marua Villa.

England like the other candidates - aside from Spain/Portugal and Russia also comprise Australia, Holland/Belgium and the United States - handed in their bid book at FIFA headquarters on Friday - the vote by the 24 FIFA executive committee members is on December 2.

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