Dein in talks with Blatter to boost England 2018 bid
England 2018 international president David Dein held a meeting with Fifa president Sepp Blatter and general secretary Jerome Valcke in Zurich on Wednesday in an attempt to boost the flagging World Cup campaign.
With England's team admitting they have been "significantly harmed" by a recent Sunday Times investigation into corruption in the bidding proces, Dein knows they face an uphill battle to win the vote on 2 December.
But the former Arsenal and FA vice chairman's audience with Blatter and Valcke offered England an invaluable opportunity to try to limit the damage caused by the newspaper expose and an upcoming investigation by the BBC's Panorama.
Will it be enough?
A controversial note passed to Mohamed Bin Hammam (right) could boost England's bid. Photo: Getty
And the key to this race now seems to be an alleged voting alliance between Spain/Portugal and Qatar, who are bidding for the 2022 World Cup.
Villa Llona had written in Spanish "congratulations, we are going to win". Clumsy as it might seem this is being interpreted in some circles as clear evidence of the pact which could guarantee as many as seven votes for each bid.
That is strictly against Fifa's bidding rules and is said to have angered rival bidders and other Fifa members.
Next week, the Fifa ethics committee is expected to rule on the alleged alliance following a hearing in Zurich. If Spain-Portugal and Qatar are cleared of wrongdoing, there could be a serious backlash that might give England a slim chance of getting back into the contest.
Fifa's technical report is also due to be posted to the bid teams on Friday ahead of expected publication next week. This has always been seen as one of England's strengths and 2018 bid leaders will hope this might help them build momentum with just three weeks to go to the vote.
2130 GMT Thursday - Update: In an unexpected turn of events, it has emerged that Fifa has called an emergency executive committee meeting next Friday to discuss the findings of the ethics inquiry into corruption in the bidding process and the possible Spain-Portugal and Qatar alliance.
This could be a key turning point in the contest and good news for England if their main rivals are found guilty of breaking rules.