FIFA Scandal: Vladimir Putin Says Russia Fought "in an Honest Manner" for 2018 FIFA World Cup
"If anyone has evidence, let them present it. We won in a fair fight and we are going to host the World Cup. Any other decision we will consider unfair," Putin told reporters.
The decision to grant Russia the World Cup 2018 should not be questioned, despite the corruption investigation into FIFA, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his first public comments on the matter.
Russia's bid was fought "in an honest manner and we won," he said on the sidelines of an economic forum in St. Petersburg.
Stadiums that will host the world's biggest soccer competition — the television rights to which are a multi-billion dollar business — were already being built, the Kremlin chief said.
His comments come a few days after Swiss investigators said the probe could mean scrapping the decisions on Russia and Qatar in 2022 if evidence of vote buying is found.
Putin insisted the 2018 World Cup would go ahead in Russia regardless of the investigation into corruption allegations over the bidding process.
Speaking to reporters late Friday, he said: "If anyone has evidence, let them present it. We won in a fair fight and we are going to host the World Cup. Any other decision we will consider unfair."
Countries that expected to have a chance of being granted the 2018 games, including England, are watching the corruption probe and Russia's reaction closely.
Swiss investigators said Wednesday they were looking into more than 50 possible cases of money laundering and over 100 incidents of "suspicious activity" in the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 games to Russia and Qatar respectively.
Domenico Scala, head of FIFA's audit and compliance committee, told Swiss media a new vote on the host countries was possible. But when asked if the decisions should be revisited if corruption were uncovered, Putin said: "We don't think we are guilty of anything. We fought for the bid fairly. We don't think the decision can be changed."
England had not exhibited "all their potential, for it needed to do so to win the World Cup," he said.
The building of stadiums to host the games had already begun, he added.