RUSSIA HAS WON the right to hold the 2018 FIFA World Cup, beating off opposition from England and two joint bids from Spain-Portugal and Belgium-Netherlands.
Qatar, meanwhile, will host the Middle East’s first World Cup in 2022.
The announcements were made by FIFA president Sepp Blatter at a press event in Zurich this afternoon, dashing the hopes of England – acknowledged by Blatter as “the motherland of football” – which has been actively seeking to host a World Cup for the last 13 years.
“We promise you an event you will never, ever forget,” deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov said, accepting the nomination. ”Let us make history together.”
Earlier this morning it was suggested that Russia’s final 2018 canvassing had been hampered by the absence of prime minister Vladimir Putin, who opted not to travel to Zurich for the final announcements.
Early unconfirmed rumours suggested that England had been eliminated in the first round of the voting, which saw 22 members of FIFA’s executive committee vote in a proportional representation-style ballot.
Qatar, meanwhile, beat off opposition from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia. Accepting the victory, Mohammed Bin Hamad Al-Thani, son of the ruling Emir, promised visitors a remarkable spectacle.
England had been represented at the final morning’s canvassing by Prince William, prime minister David Cameron, David Beckham, and bid chief executive Andy Anson.
“We have the passion, and we have the expertise, to put on what we believe is the most spectacular World Cup in history. There is incredible support at home for this bid – every political party supports it, the public back it, and the future King of England is right behind it,” an obviously excited Cameron said.
Prince William, who is President of the FA – said he knew England was able to “deliver extraordinary public occasions – I certainly hope, as I’m planning quite a big one myself next year.”
England has only ever hosted the World Cup once before, in 1966 when the host nation won it, and hasn’t hosted a major international tournament since the 1996 European Championships.
The country had hoped to win the 2006 tournament, but lost out to Germany after coming under pressure to support its European neighbour after it had supported England’s own Euro 96 bid.
A Sunday Times article last month alleged that two members of the Executive Committee were prepared to take bribes in exchange for their votes, a revelation that was understood to have upset many other members of the 24-strong committee.
England’s image may also have been hurt by crowd trouble at last night’s Carling Cup quarter-final between Birmingham and Aston Villa.