Lord Triesman’s World Cup bribery allegations have been given credence by Russia’s leading football analyst, who claims his country is unfit to host the tournament.
In a startling twist to the former Football Association chairman’s controversial comments, Alexander Bubnov, a former player turned TV pundit, said Russian referees are no longer used in major competitions because of suspicions about match-fixing.
And he claimed the scale of corruption surrounding the game in his country has made its bid to stage the finals in 2018 ‘unrealistic’. There were no Russian officials at Euro 2008 and none has been selected for next month’s World Cup.
Sources have told The Mail on Sunday that Russian referees are also expected to be absent from the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
It has prompted speculation that they are subject to an unofficial ban, although this has been denied by FIFA, football’s world governing body.
Mr Bubnov was responding to Lord Triesman’s allegation – revealed in The Mail on Sunday last week – that there was ‘some evidence’ that Spain may withdraw its bid to stage the World Cup in 2018 if Russia, which also wants to host the event, helps it to bribe referees in South Africa next month.
The Labour peer said later that his remarks were never meant to be taken seriously. However, they led to his resignation as head of both England’s World Cup bid and the FA.
‘A top official of such high ranking would not say this without reason,’ Mr Bubnov, who played for the USSR in the 1986 World Cup, told Moscow radio station Business FM.
‘You would need to be insane just to invent such things out of the blue...It means that he possessed some confidential information.’
Of the 2018 bid, Mr Bubnov said that in Russia ‘all the infrastructure needed to hold such an event is almost completely missing’.