British Prime Minister David Cameron was expected to lobby a key FIFA official here Tuesday as England launched a heavyweight charm offensive to secure votes for their 2018 World Cup bid.
Cameron was due in Zurich to meet Trinidad football official Jack Warner head of the North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) region whose support is seen as crucial to England’s chances.
England 2018 officials declined to confirm the meeting but British media and Trinidad newspaper Newsday reported the two men were due to have a private lunch in Zurich following an invitation from Cameron two weeks ago.
As president of CONCACAF, Warner could conceivably deliver three vital votes in Thursday’s secret ballot of FIFA’s 22-member executive committee.
Analysts believe without Warner and CONCACAF’s support in the first round, England have little chance of winning against the likes of the bookmakers favourites Russia or dark horses Spain-Portugal.
Warner, who has been both critical and openly supportive of England’s bid over the past two years, said in a statement on Sunday he had yet to decide who to support but said CONCACAF would vote as a block.
“I am still undecided as to whom we will support, but the CONCACAF family will vote together,” Warner said.
Tuesday’s meeting comes less than 24 hours after FIFA executive commitee member Warner was accused in a BBC documentary broadcast late on Monday of trying to sell World Cup tickets to touts.
Three other members of FIFA’s executive committee – African confederation president Issa Hayatou, Brazil’s Ricardo Teixeira and Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay – were also accused by the programme of involvement in a corruption scandal.
England 2018 officials on Monday condemned the BBC programme, describing it as harmful to the country’s World Cup bid.
“We stand by our previous position that the BBC’s Panorama did nothing more than rake over a series of historical allegations none of which are relevant to the current bidding process. It should be seen as an embarrassment to the BBC,” an England 2018 statement said.
Cameron is one of several high-profile figures who are being deployed by England 2018 officials as they mount a frenzied last-ditch lobbying campaign in an effort to sway voters.
As well as the British PM, England officials will have support from heir to the throne Prince William, due to meet FIFA delegates on Wednesday, and English football icon David Beckham, who arrives later Tuesday.