Football: McGivan calls bid trip `a success'

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The Independent Online
England's World Cup bid team returned home yesterday convinced their hopes of capturing the 2006 event had been boosted by eight days of transatlantic lobbying.

Alec McGivan, who heads the bid team, Sports Minister Tony Banks, Sir Bobby Charlton and the chief executive of the Football Association, Graham Kelly, travelled to the United States, Trinidad and Tobago and Costa Rica to put England's case to three members of Fifa's executive committee.

McGivan said yesterday that the reception the team had received could not have been better. "The trip exceeded all our expectations," he said. "By going to these three countries we spoke to the representatives of the 37 North and Central American members. That's around a fifth of the football world, and in each case we had a very warm reception.

"I think it helped that we were the first bidding nations to go to see any of them, and it gave us the chance to fly the flag and sell England and the bid before the others got in.

"What it has shown is that you have to go out and meet people if you want to stage the World Cup. Bidding is an expensive business - but you won't win by sitting in an office in London."

McGivan added that the presence of Sir Bobby and Banks had been a major factor in the success of the trips to see US representative Chuck Blazer, his committee colleague Isaac Sasso Sasso in San Juan and Jack Warner, the vice-president of Fifa, the world governing body, in the West Indies.

"All three of them commented on the fact that the Government was backing our bid so strongly and showing real support, while Sir Bobby was hailed as a football hero everywhere we went," he said.

"It's clear that there is great interest in the new Wembley and the other great grounds we've got. What came up time and again was that having so many foreign players in the Premiership is a big plus for us and the success we had in staging Euro 96 is also working in our favour."

McGivan hopes to talk face to face with all 24 members of the executive committee before the race begins for real at the finals in France next summer.

"We know we don't have a divine right to stage the World Cup and we must not be arrogant at all," he said. "It is far too early to be optimistic or pessimistic, but we've all been very buoyed up by the experience.

"We won't get carried away. But to see so much interest in our bid, that we've made such a powerful impact already, is a big boost for everybody."