Fuming Putin accuses England of 'dirty tricks' as the World Cup showdown reaches its climax

  • Hopes of victory growing as votes secured to take bid through first round
  • David Cameron jets back to Zurich after PMQs to back England's bid
  • Russian PM Vladimir Putin accuses England of 'dirty tricks campaign'
  • David Beckham claims Fifa can be trusted to back the best country to win
  • Prince William, Cameron and Beckham have met delegates

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin today accused England of a 'dirty tricks campaign' as England's World Cup bid gathered momentum ahead of tomorrow's crunch vote.

The former KGB spy told Russian ministers he would not travel to Switzerland to support his country's bid because of a 'media onslaught' which amounted to 'unfair competition'.

The Russian bid was the favourite but with England employing a three-pronged attack of Prince William, Prime Minister David Cameron and football legend David Beckham the tables appear to be turning.

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons,
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Head-to-head: David Cameron is in Zurich spelling out why England's bid is the best but rival bidder Russia will be without their prime minister after he refused to travel so not to apply 'undue pressure'

Earlier Mr Cameron made a mad dash from Switzerland to Westminster and back again in an eleventh-hour bid to bring the World Cup home.

Mr Cameron spent last night charming delegates - who could land England the competition in 2018 - before jetting back to London to do battle at the dispatch box with Labour leader Ed Miliband.

But immediately after he was back to Zurich to join his striking partners William and Beckham - dubbed the Three Lions - for the a last-ditch charm offensive.

But his tireless campaigning to land the cup has left Mr Putin furious.

He said: 'I would like to note that recently we have watched with disappointment as an obvious campaign was being unleashed against members of the FIFA executive committee. They are being compromised and smeared in dirt.

'I consider it as part of unscrupulous bit of competition in preparations for the selection of the host-country for the World Cup.

'I would love to represent our entry in person. However, under these circumstances, I think it would be best not to go out of respect for the members of the FIFA executive committee, so that they could make their decision in peace and without any outside pressure.'

England 2018 bid team in Zurich

Positive: David Beckham struck an up-beat tone as he took questions on England's bid this morning

Mr Cameron told MPs: 'This morning I returned from Zurich where I have been meeting with decision makers aiming to convince them of what a brilliant World Cup England could host in 2018.'

He added: 'I do think that England 2018 has got a very, very strong bid. If you look at the technical aspects we have got the stadia, we have got the facilities, we have the transport networks, we have the enthusiasm within our country for football and we can put on an absolutely first class World Cup.

'I know that many people will ask "are you spending too much time on something that might not succeed?" and I would say if you don't get on to the pitch you have no chance of winning and I think we should all get behind the bid.'

Mr Miliband said: 'Ours is, as you say, a fantastic bid and all of us will be hoping for a successful outcome tomorrow.'

This morning Beckham said he, Mr Cameron and William met with delegates last night to persuade them England's bid was the best.

And the England bid was dealt another boost this afternoon when Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin said he would not travel to Zurich 'to avoid putting undue pressure on delegates'.

But the snub will be seen as a retreat by the Russians who are the favourites and England's main rivals.

Ahead of the of the England delegation arriving in Switzerland there were fears the bid was set to stumble on the back of a BBC documentary which alleged some of those who will make the decision had been bribed in previous years.

But now it appears England's bid has secured six votes - which would take it through the first elimination round.

Dream team: England 2018 bid ambassador David Beckham joined Prince William and Prime Minister David Cameron in Steigenberger, Zurich

Dream team: David Beckham, Prince William and David Cameron earlier this week

England would then hope to pick up votes from the Belgium and Holland bid to take the bid across the finishing line.

Beckham said: 'I think that we can trust every one of the members. At the end of the day, they are football people and they are going to want a World Cup in the best country that they think could host the biggest sporting event in the world.

'Everything has been positive so far. We have obviously listened to the feedback and the ideas we feel we need to be pushing in the next few days and we are working on it.'

The Prime Minister stressed the ‘multi-cultural’ strengths of England’s bid to host the World Cup as he prepared to spearhead a frantic last full day of lobbying to woo wavering voters.

Australia's super model Elle Macpherson

Glamour: Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson in Zurich backing her native country's bid

England are believed to be lagging behind Russia and a joint bid from Spain and Portugal but Mr Cameron will press his case with each of the 22 members of the Fifa executive committee over the next 24 hours.

Panorama claimed that three members of Fifa, world football’s governing body, took bribes in the 1980s and 1990s, while a fourth attempted to secure World Cup tickets to supply touts.

The programme was branded an ‘embarrassment’ and Andy Anson, the England bid chief, described the BBC as ‘unpatriotic’.

Yesterday Cameron met with one of the football executives at the centre of the BBC's allegations. Jack Warner, a minister in the Trinidadian government, was accused by Panorama of attempting a ticket fraud at the last World Cup.

After the meeting, Mr Warner said he was pleased with the talks and praised Mr Cameron's knowledge of the game.

It is Prince William’s first trip abroad since the announcement of his engagement to Kate Middleton and a Buckingham Palace aide described him as ‘raring to go’.

Mr Cameron pointedly deflected questions about the impact of the Panorama investigation yesterday, insisting: ‘I’ve only got one focus here and that’s trying to bring the World Cup home for England.’ Mr Cameron also met Fifa president Sepp Blatter yesterday.

But England's bid is not the only one backed by big hitters - Australia's attempt to capture the 2022 tournament has attracted supermodel Elle Macpherson.

MacPherson, known as ‘The Body’, will give a short speech during Australia’s final presentation in an effort to replicate Claudia Schiffer’s support for the winning German bid in 2006.

‘She’s a fantastic, iconic Australian who’s been very successful on the world stage,’ Football Federation of Australia boss Ben Buckley said.

‘Football is the world game, so there’s no better way to express Australia’s personality than through a person like her.’

Beckham plays football with children at a school in Zurich today ahead of Thursday's crunch World Cup vote

Good sport: Beckham plays football with children at a school in Zurich today ahead of the crunch vote

■ The BBC has been condemned after it emerged it was taking 35 staff to cover the announcement of who will host the World Cup.

At an estimated cost of more than £100,000 of licence-fee payers money, staff are flying to Zurich to spend up to four days covering the event.

Allegations: Reporter Andrew Jennings questions Fifa president Sepp Blatter in the Panorama programme screened last night

Allegations: Reporter Andrew Jennings questions Fifa president Sepp Blatter in the Panorama programme screened last night

Defiant: Fifa president Sepp Blatter said none of his officials had been accused of a criminal offence

Defiant: Blatter said none of his officials had been accused of a criminal offence

A BBC source said: ‘The irony that so many staff are heading to Switzerland to cover this event after the Panorama programme put the proverbial boot into our chances on Monday won’t have escaped the attention of the British public.

‘People will be rightly angry that the BBC splurges such huge sums of money with wild abandon on such a regular basis.

‘There is no way that more than five news and sports staff are required over there with perhaps two support staff.

Allegations: Nicolas Leoz
Allegations: Ricardo Teixeira

Claims: Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay, left, and Brazil's Ricardo Terra Teixeira were two of the Fifa committee members accused by Panorama of taking payments