During their failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup, football officials spied on their rivals after hiring a “corporate investigations” company, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The company, RISC, conducted surveillance operations, based in the hotel where many bid delegations were staying. Many Fifa executive committee members also stayed there and it became the focus of lobbying before the votes last December.

Although the Football Association declined to comment on RISC’s role, sources close to the bid insisted they were retained to oversee rival bidders in public areas of the hotel.

They also accused the Dutch of using diplomatic staff to watch what England were doing, and suggested the Russian bid had covert employees monitoring other bids.

“Whatever ‘surveillance’ there may have been was limited to people sitting in public areas of the hotels seeing who was meeting who,” the source told The Daily Telegraph. “Just as the Dutch had embassy officials monitoring who was meeting who. There was no use of electronic devices.”