Uefa hardens stance over England's World Cup bid

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The Independent Online
The European football authority last night hardened its support for a German rather than an English World Cup bid with a statement from its Swiss headquarters.

Uefa said the German bid to host the 2006 World Cup finals had been submitted to Fifa as long ago as 1994 at a meeting of the world governing body, Fifa, in Chicago. It added: "The executive committee endorsed the German candidature for 2006, considering the German Association well-equipped for hosting the event by virtue of its experience and organisational capacity."

The prospect of internal embarrassment for the FA emerged last night with suggestions that the FA chairman until last summer, Sir Bert Millichip, was present in Las Vegas when Germany first publicised their World Cup bid in June 1993. He was also Uefa vice-president at the time of the Chicago congress. The Uefa general secretary, Gerhard Aigner, said: "It seems unfortunate that a former vice-president of Uefa [Sir Bert] should have forgotten that he was present at meetings in 1993, 1994 and 1995, all of which endorsed the German candidature for 2006." With Sir Bert insisting that no decision was ever muted, the prospect remains that details may have been held from him, an equally embarrassing scenario for the FA.

The new details came after it had emerged that an invitation to lunch with the Prime Minister at Downing Street next week was behind the announcement on Friday night by Uefa that it was backing Germany. The subject of World Cup candidature was not even on the original agenda at last week's Uefa meeting in Lisbon. But it was suggested by those due to attend the lunch on Wednesday week - when England meet Italy in a crucial World Cup tie - that it might save some embarrassment to know beforehand what Uefa's stance was.

Only then did Uefa's promise to the Germans emerge. Hence the Friday night fax to the Football Association's headquarters at Lancaster Gate.

The machinations of last week's meeting were revealed yesterday by one of its observers, David Will, Scotland's Fifa vice-president, who said: "There was certainly no underhand dealing. A number of members had received an invitation to meet Mr Major and wanted to discuss the World Cup bid, so it was added to the agenda."

However, the FA is determined to press on with its pounds 10m bid in the hope that Fifa will consider both bids. Prominent Fifa representatives will be among those invited to next week's lunch, when the home bid will be launched. While the tabloids are turning it into an England-Germany confrontation, the dispute is really with Uefa.

A Uefa delegation will be sent to London this week to "clarify" the situation. What the FA would like clarified, said David Davies, its director of public affairs, was when and where approval of the German bid was officially given. "

The final decision does not have to be made until 2000.

Political footballs, Glenn Moore, Sports Section, page 7