LONDON (AFP) - England could feasibly step in and host the 2018 World Cup if it was stripped from Russia over new corruption allegations, a Football Association spokesman said on Thursday.
Swiss authorities have launched a criminal investigation linked to fraud in the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar respectively, while 14 people, including nine current and former officials from world governing body FIFA, have been arrested on corruption charges in a separate US probe.
Lennart Johansson, the former president of European governing body UEFA, has told a Swedish newspaper that the 2018 World Cup should be given to England, which lost out to Russia in the bidding process in 2010 after gaining only two votes.
FIFA has dismissed calls for a re-vote and Russia has denied all accusations of wrongdoing, but when asked if England could host a World Cup in 2018, an FA spokesman told reporters: "We absolutely could." However, he also said that the FA expects the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to take place in Russia and Qatar as planned.
England manager Roy Hodgson believes his country would make excellent World Cup hosts.
"I don't know if it will be because of the situation that has developed now, but I know we will get a World Cup again (at some point) and I know it will be a fantastic experience," he told reporters in London.
"Because the passion for football in England is still second to none. We are right up there."
England last hosted the World Cup in 1966, when they won the tournament, and made unsuccessful bids to host the 2006 and 2018 editions.
FA chairman Greg Dyke has said that England will never bid to host the World Cup again while Sepp Blatter remains FIFA president.
Despite the corruption storm and calls for him to step down from figures including UEFA president Michel Platini, Blatter, 79, will run for a fifth term as FIFA president in Friday's election in Zurich.
Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan, a FIFA vice-president, is his only rival for the post.
Blatter pledged to restore FIFA's reputation on Thursday, telling the organisation's congress in Zurich: "We cannot allow the reputation of football and FIFA to be dragged through the mud any longer." Hodgson described the allegations facing FIFA as "very disturbing".
"Whenever clear signs of corruption have taken place at the very highest level, how can any football lover not be disappointed about that?" he added.
"At my particular level, I work in a football team, it doesn't affect me.
"But as a football lover, it is very saddening to hear and know these things have taken place and one hopes desperately that measures will be taken to make certain it doesn't happen again."