Sepp Blatter: FIFA concern at Russia racism report before 2018 World Cup

Sepp Blatter has admitted FIFA are concerned by a study of racism in Russian football as the country prepares to host the 2018 World Cup.

A report by the Fare network and Sova Center entitled "Time for Action" found over 200 cases of discriminatory behaviour linked with the Russian game between May 2012 and May 2014.

The report reads: "The 2018 World Cup is now almost three years away and even in a country in which things can happen very quickly the opportunity to bring about long-term change may have passed.

"We acknowledge the action that has been taken by both the Russian state and football bodies but neither can said to have been effective."

FIFA president Blatter told the Associated Press: "I am aware of the report -- sure we are concerned, definitely."

Blatter said in January he received personal assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that the country's economic problems will not affect its ability to host the 2018 World Cup, while revealing that the pair had agreed to make longstanding racism problems in Russian football a priority ahead of the competition.

The Fare network is an organisation which works on combating racism and inequality in football for UEFA, while the Sova Center is a Moscow-based organisation which conducts research into racism and nationalism.

Fare executive director Piara Power told the Associated Press: "It shows a really quite gruesome picture of a domestic league which is full of aspects of racism and xenophobia. The far-right play a significant role in the fan culture."

Meanwhile, reporters from the Sunday Times last week responded to Blatter's allegations that racism is behind their investigations into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, calling the FIFA president's comments "deranged."