London: Britain`s media today lashed out at football governing body FIFA`s "fixed" decision to grant the hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup to Russia, ending "humiliated" England`s dreams of staging the event.
England`s 15-million pound (23.3-million euro, 17.7-million euro) bid ended in abject failure, receiving just two votes from the 22 delegates, one of which was presumably cast by its own representative, Geoff Thompson.
"Fixed!" screamed an outraged Sun in its headline.
"Russians knew result," the popular tabloid continued, claiming that Russia bid chief executive Alexey Sorokin told the England team on Wednesday that it had already secured the required number of votes.
Former England manager and Sun columnist Terry Venables branded the vote a "complete and utter sham".
"Maybe we should not be that surprised Russia got the vote to stage the 2018 World Cup," Venables said. "After all, FIFA and the KGB are just about the last two secret organisations on the planet."
The former Tottenham manager echoed the common belief held by the nation`s media that FIFA is ideologically opposed to England.
"The bleeding heart liberals in Zurich, like they did with South Africa 2010, opted for legacy over logistics," he said.
"It is a great shame. A shame for England. A shame for football. And shame on FIFA," Venables concluded.
Fellow tabloid Daily Mirror was equally straightforward in its assessment, and also slammed the decision to grant the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.
"Russia, a mafia state rotten to the core with corruption; Qatar a medieval kingdom with no freedom of speech; Both are swimming in oil money," it splashed across its front page.
"How on earth did they persuade the dodgy fatcats at FIFA to give them the World Cup? SOLD," the paper concluded.
"Was the World Cup a stitch-up?" asked the centre-right Daily Mail.
"Amid strong suspicions of shady backroom deals, the tournament went to Russia, branded a `virtual mafia state` in leaked U S diplomatic cables this week," the paper reported.
The Times` editorial pulled few punches: "The system of World Cup elections is abysmally corrupt," it claimed. "It is too small, making it easily manipulated, and it is too secret, protecting it from scrutiny".
The paper, owned by Rupert Murdoch`s News Corporation, also criticised England`s bid.
"England fluffed it," the paper bemoaned. "England has the best stadiums, the best infrastructure and a passionate footballing culture. And yet it has no World Cup."
The British press had mixed feelings in the build up to the vote about media investigations which exposed corruption in the bid process and among high-ranking officials, fearing it would harm England`s chances.
Although their concerns appeared to have been realised, the media took a much more supportive stance in Friday`s papers in light of the deep flaws which the vote exposed in FIFA.
"In this World Cup sewer, we reptiles of British journalism hold our heads high," Simon Jenkins wrote in the left-leaning Guardian.
"Let FIFA`s murk be cleared. As WikiLeaks has shown, disclosure is all we have when audit is polluted and politicians are cowed," he added.