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2018 bid gives handbags as gifts

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There is no suggestion any rules have been broken

By James Pearce
BBC sports news correspondent

England's 2018 World Cup bid team plans to give luxury handbags to the wives of all 24 members of Fifa's voting committee, BBC Sport can reveal.

Fifa vice-president Jack Warner picked up his wife's bag during a recent trip to London when he criticised the bid.

Shadow sports minister Hugh Robertson claimed the move was "a massive misjudgement" and could backfire.

But Richard Caborn, ambassador for the 2018 bid, said: "We work within the rules. There is no embarrassment."

He insisted: "There are rules set down by the governing bodies, and it is about making sure we follow those rules, which we have."

An England 2018 spokesman added: "Fifa has a set of guidelines for all bidders which includes direction on what constitutes an acceptable campaign gift. All our gifts are carefully chosen so as to be within both the spirit and letter of that law."

However, the revelation raises questions about the integrity of the bidding process, and illustrates how the contest could become a "present frenzy", with different countries trying to outdo each other in terms of the gifts they give to the executive committee members.

606: DEBATE

The Fifa regulations are fairly vague, stipulating that "no monetary gifts of any kind of personal advantage can be provided by the bidders to Fifa or and Fifa members".

The rules are much slacker than the International Olympic Committee (IOC) regulations, which were tightened up after the Salt Lake City voting scandal.

IOC members are only allowed to accept gifts of "minimal" value and are not even allowed to visit any of the bidding cities.

In contrast, Fifa members are permitted to travel the world as much as they like, accepting chauffeur driven limousines and five star hotel accommodation from the competing countries.

Alec McGivan, who headed England's failed 2006 World Cup bid, told BBC Sport: "I think Fifa executive members are used to staying in the best hotels in the world and going to all the biggest sporting events.

"They have a luxury lifestyle really. When they turn up they expect to be well treated."

But Robertson has called on Fifa to tighten its rules ahead of what is likely to be the most competitive and high-profile contest in the history of World Cup bidding.

"If other bidding cities are doing this or worse, then Fifa needs to look at its rules as a priority and stop this kind of activity happening again in the future," he argued.

"Particularly in the middle of an economic recession and a time when the bid is looking for public funds, I think it's very clumsy in public relations as it sends out entirely the wrong messages about England's bid."

The host countries for 2018 and 2022 are being decided in December 2010 and there are currently 10 different bids on the table.



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see also
England 2018 ambassadors unveiled
22 Oct 09 |  Football
England 'must improve 2018 bid'
07 Oct 09 |  Football
Rivals unite for World Cup bid
23 Jul 09 |  Merseyside
2018 bid chief calls for humility
18 May 09 |  Football
Triesman calls for World Cup bid support
18 May 09 |  Internationals


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