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November 6, 2009

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FIFA official returns England's 2018 bid gift

FIFA vice president Jack Warner returned a luxury handbag given to his wife by England's World Cup bid team because of the "embarrassment" caused by the subsequent fallout.

Warner, one of 24 FIFA executive members who will vote next year on the World Cup hosts for 2018 and 2022, received the US$380 Mulberry bag during a visit to London last month and originally thought it was to mark his wife's birthday.

England, which is primarily targeting the 2018 tournament, now has no plans to distribute the other 23 bags to the FIFA voters.

FIFA guidelines tell bidding countries that gifts can only be provided to FIFA officials that have "symbolic or incidental value," and Warner accepts this was the case.

"I believe this was a very innocuous gift given by the FA to my wife for her birthday that led to her being embarrassed by the English media," Warner said on Wednesday. "It was just a symbolic gift and was completely unsolicited - it didn't matter if it cost 2 or 200 pounds.

"As far as I am concerned, my wife is sacrosanct and I want no part of anything that affects her, so we decided to return the bag and she did so yesterday morning."

The British media and opposition Conservative Party had questioned the wisdom of providing the handbag.

"We have always sought to act within the laws laid down by FIFA during the bidding process and we will continue doing so," the bid team said.

Warner has described England's bid as "lightweight."

England will discover in December next year whether it will host the World Cup for the first time since 1966.

Also, the United States, England, Australia, Russia and Japan plus joint proposals from Belgium-Netherlands and Spain-Portugal are bidding for either the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.


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