Platini rides to England’s aid

ENGLAND’S floundering bid to host the 2018 World Cup received a much-needed shot in the arm last night when two of the global game’s most powerful men, Michel Platini and Jack Warner, insisted the proposal remained strong.

The country’s hopes of staging the tournament for the first time since 1966 nosedived after Lord Triesman, the former chairman of the bid, allegedly suggested Spain and Russia were conspiring to bribe referees.

Even his swift resignation from the bid and the Football Association failed to halt a deluge of negative publicity, with world chiefs Fifa launching their own investigation into the comments and further damaging revelations anticipated.

But welcome respite arrived yesterday in the unlikely form of Platini and Warner, two men who have previously clashed with influential figures within the English game.

Platini, the president of European governing body Uefa, offered his support to Triesman, with whom he said he had a “good friendship”, and declared that England were still credible bidders to host the 2018 event.

Asked if the bid had been damaged, the Frenchman replied: “Maybe yes, I think you need the people who vote on your side. But for the bid [new chairman] Geoff Thompson is a good guy, England is a great country and of course it can recover and survive this.”

Warner, a Fifa vice-president and chief of CONCACAF, which governs football in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, also adopted a conciliatory tone.

“It’s unfortunate but the English FA dealt with it appropriately and quickly and therefore I don’t believe there will be too much negative reaction from it,” said the Trinidadian.

“We are still looking at all the nations involved and we are looking to make sure what the best case is for football.”

Platini has been a vocal critic of Premier League clubs’ debt – a stance viewed by some as a veiled attempt to break English teams’ dominance in continental competition. Warner, meanwhile, criticised England’s bid last year for “creeping along” and then clashed with chiefs over the gift of a handbag to his wife, which he felt led to questioning of his integrity.

Media pundit and ex-England striker Gary Lineker, who is a bid ambassador, yesterday quit his column with the Mail on Sunday in protest at their expose of Triesman’s remarks.