England's dreams of repeating the success of the 1966 World Cup were boostedwhen the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced government funding for a feasibility study into a bid to host the football competition in 2018.
Martin Peters, a star of the England team, said his team-mates from the 1966 squad, who include the Charlton brothers, Jackie and Bobby, Nobby Stiles and Geoff Hurst, could be brought back together to back the bid if it went ahead.
"It's fantastic news. I know from the '66 boys we feel it's long, long overdue and we'll be supporting the bid as much as we can,'' he said yesterday as the Chancellor made the announcement with Tessa Jowell, Culture Secretary.
Mr Brown, a Raith Rovers fan, said hosting the World Cup after the 2012 Olympics would be "a magnificent double for this country". The Olympics success was seen as a personal triumph for Tony Blair and fellow ministers said Mr Brown, who could be Prime Minister at the time of the Games, was looking for his own place in Britain's sporting history.
England have not won the competition since hosting the World Cup in the Wilson era, when the Jules Rimet trophy was lifted by England captain Bobby Moore after beating West Germany 4-2. It was felt that home advantage helped England to the success.
The Queen and 93,000 spectators watched the final at Wembley but, by 2018, England will have a new Wembley stadium. Richard Caborn, the Sports minister, said: "The Olympics has shown what can be done. It is already proving a fantastic inspiration for our young athletes and the World Cup could do the same for football in this country."
The decision to hold a feasibility study into hosting the Olympics was seen as part of the reason for the success of that bid. Ms Jowell said: "You give yourself the best chance by going through stages like this."
South African officials were at the launch and The Independent has learnt that Britain will be supporting a bid by South Africa to host the Olympics after London in 2016. South Africa host the World Cup in 2010.
The study will be carried out jointly by the Treasury and the Culture Department, and will take "a few months", said Mr Brown.
The final bid will not be chosen by Fifa, the world football governing body, until shortly before the London Olympics in 2012. British officials said successful preparations for the Olympics could help to sway the bid for England to host the World Cup.Reuse content