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As the Football Association launches it’s latest bid to host the World Cup, Steve Beauchampé assesses their chances.

When Football Association Chairman Lord Triesman pledged that England’s World Cup bid would not be characterised by arrogance many will have been relieved.

Following the embarrassing, overly-aggressive and arguably corrupt attempt to secure the 2006 Finals (remember Sir Bert Millichip’s ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement’ with Germany, the cash for votes scandal and the £10m campaign budget which dwarfed that of their rivals?) the game’s governing body would do well to show a little humility on this occasion.

Gone, apparently, will be the emotional ‘England - home of football’ argument and while the lobbying will be intense and fierce and there’ll be wining and dining aplenty, the campaign will hopefully retain a deal more decorum than last time round.

Although the bid covers both the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, in reality it’s 2018 or nothing for England. World governing body FIFA’s rotational system dictates that consecutive World Cups can’t be hosted by the same Confederation, so only one of the finals will be in Europe.

Given that next year’s Finals are being staged in South Africa and the 2014 event in Brazil, by 2018 it will be 12 years since Europe last hosted what - Olympics aside - is the globe’s biggest sporting occasion. To the powerful European lobby that gap is quite long enough and failure to secure the 2018 competition would be viewed by governing body UEFA as a major snub.

Thus England’s principle opposition will come from Russia and a joint bid from Spain and Portugal. While FIFA generally prefer single country bids (although the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea was generally considered a success) the geographical adjacency of Spain and Portugal, along with the high standing which both countries enjoy in both UEFA and FIFA, should overcome resistance to the bid on that count at least.

Russia are the European outsiders. Ongoing concern over the country’s long-term political stability, its stadium, transport and accommodation infrastructure beyond Moscow and St. Petersburg, language and time zones barriers, each or all of these issues may prove negatively decisive for the Russian bid.

Euro 2008 Champions Spain are a true footballing heavyweight, Portugal still enjoying the caché garnered from their successful hosting of Euro 2004. Jointly, they have the stadia, the climate, the infrastructure and the fan fervour (particularly in Spain). Hosts in 1982 (so that’s 36 years come 2018) Spain would be a nailed-on cert to deliver the kind of tournament FIFA are looking for.

But so would England. The clamour for tickets will be immense and support from throughout the football and political community guaranteed, while London’s experience of hosting the 2012 Olympics should benefit World Cup organisers. Our stadia may be aesthetically unspectacular, especially when compared to Germany 2006 (while 2018 will be almost 30 years since the Taylor Report so some may need refurbishing), but they are well managed and England is as capable of staging global events as most. Oh, and it will be 52 years since 1966!

FIFA’s 24-strong Executive Committee will decide the destination of both tournaments in December 2010. Before then, England will reduce the current list of 15 host cities to a final 12. Birmingham will be amongst them, though if the city is to be guaranteed even a Quarter-Final expansion of Villa Park from it’s current capacity of around 42,000 to at least 50,000 is essential.

The FA has 19 months to persuade FIFA delegates the merits of their case. Unofficial lobbying has been happening for some time, but the race for 2018 is properly underway. England or Spain/Portugal - whatever the outcome, it should be a wonderful tournament.

Oh, and my tip for 2022 - Australia.



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