England 2018 "not in the running"
England's chances of landing the 2018 World Cup might be far worse than previously imagined with one senior FA figure warning: "It's now between Russia and Spain."
The most pessimistic appraisal from an influential FA figure comes at a time when there have been confessions that the bid has been "harmed" by the English media's investigations into FIFA corruption.
But it hasn't been appreciated just how bad that might be until one senior FA figure confessed: "The word from within the FIFA executive is that England might very well have blown it completely."
Claims of corruption in the 2018 World Cup bidding process by the English press have seriously damaged FIFA's reputation and that, in turn, has impacted badly on England's bid.
"I'm sure there's damage for FIFA and for the World Cup," FIFA executive member Junji Ogura recently told BBC Sport.
England's biggest hope is that opinion within FIFA swings back in their favour before the final vote next month - but at the moment the signs are ominous.
ESPNsoccernet has been told the strength of feeling is running high within FIFA's voting executive. "The word is that it is now between Russia and the joint Spain and Portugal bid," the source said. "England? Not even in the running anymore. At least that is what is now being suggested.
"If you know the way FIFA's mind works then it looks like we haven't got a prayer. Talk about our bid being harmed, well, that is the least that has happened. There has been a huge backlash and the word inside FIFA is that they won't be voting for England.
"Look, it doesn't mean I agree with their view. I don't. I am not saying it is wrong to expose vote-rigging and corruption, but there is a proper way of going about it.
"If the papers have the moral high ground and believe it is their right to investigate, then fine, but why didn't they take their findings to FIFA first, let them act, and then report it? The evidence should have been handed over to FIFA first."
The FA's 2018 bid committee has been lobbying frantically in the last week to try to pull the situation around, and it will be a huge achievement if they can pull off what would now be seen as a shock decision in favour of England's bid.
ESPNsoccernet's FA source has direct contact with those lobbying within FIFA Executive circles, but the bid committee are taking advice from Lord Sebastian Coe, who successfully led England's 2012 Olympic bid, about how to turn it around at the last minute.
The bid team will make their final presentation on December 2 in Zurich, and that is why there is panic within the FA ranks that England may struggle. The 2018 Bid team are third up after Holland/Belgium and Spain/Portugal. The order was confirmed by the drawing of lots.