Football: 2006: a costly World Cup odyssey

International football: Campaigners are clocking up air miles and a pounds 9m bill in effort to bring big prize `back home'
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The Independent Online
WALES, MALI and Trinidad may not have much in common - but all have reason to appreciate the benevolence of the English Football Association. While the Welsh FA will receive pounds 900,000 in gifts over three years from the FA, the West African country will receive technical support in the run-up to staging the African Nations Cup in 2002 and the Caribbean island's association will continue to heap praise on its English counterpart for all the recent assistance it has been given.

The gifts to the Football Association of Wales have been dogged by controversy - Graham Kelly resigned as the FA's chief executive and the chairman, Keith Wiseman, received a unanimous vote of no confidence over plans to give the Welsh pounds 3.2m without first clearing it with the finance committee - but the help given to the other nations is all part and parcel of the legitimate business of lobbying for the right to stage the 2006 World Cup.

A delegation from the England 2006 campaign team - comprising Kelly, Sir Bobby Charlton, the Sports Minister Tony Banks and the campaign director Alec McGivan - visited Mali last month and presented their bid to Amadou Diakite, Mali's top football official and one of 24 men who will decide where the 2006 tournament will be staged.

"Bobby Charlton is a legend and many people know him," said Diakite yesterday. "When he came, many people enjoyed his visit." A Mali FA spokesman added: "After the visit, the FA and the government of England were consulting to see what help they can give to the Mali FA for the ANC in 2002."

Diakite, who said that this help is likely to consist of FA officials advising his country on security matters for 2002, added he would like to see an African country host the World Cup in 2006.

"My decision [won't be taken] now," he added saying that, should his preference not be possible, he would not object to England hosting the tournament.

In Trinidad, there is no hint of wavering in support. "I'll be voting for England and whatever influence I can use within my confederation [Concacaf, the regional body for North America, Central America and the Caribbean], I will do so," Oliver Camps, the president of the FA in Trinidad, said.

Concacaf will decide how to cast its four votes (of the 24 in total) collectively, added Camps, and said that he would influence Jack Warner, Concacaf's president - who is also from Trinidad - as much as he could to make sure they come England's way in March 2000 when voting takes place.

McGivan, Banks and Sir Bobby all visited Trinidad in October 1997 to talk to Camps, but contact from the English FA did not stop there. Only last week McGivan gave a football workshop in Trinidad with three English coaches and, earlier this year, they paid for the referee Uriah Rennie to attend a similar event on the island.

"We are very grateful for that," Camps said. "They [the English FA] have been very supportive. Whenever we ask for assistance they come forward." He said they had never offered financial assistance, but added: "We have not asked for that. It may come soon. We always need grants."

While the FA and the 2006 campaign team have been making friends around the world with their good work, not everyone has been impressed. Banks, in particular, has come in for criticism, and his globetrotting was due to be the subject of a question in Parliament on Wednesday. The Conservative MP Richard Spring had tabled the question - asking why the Sports Minister had been spending so much time abroad when other sports governing bodies felt neglected - but the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, perhaps because of events at the FA this week, did not elaborate on Banks' travels.

"If there is to be a bid from this part of the world, we should carry on fighting for it," the Prime Minister said. Banks himself has defended his role in the 2006 team. "This is supposed to be an all-party effort and I think some people are trying to sabotage the bid," he said. "As far as I am concerned we are still the favourites and I would have hoped that the opposition would have supported our campaign rather than those of our competitors."

A spokesman for the Sports Minister said his actions were not only understandable, but necessary. "You won't win a World Cup for this country by sitting in your office in Whitehall," he said. "It impresses these countries that there is a government minister on the bid team."

Since October 1997 Banks has been on 2006 bid business to the United States, Costa Rica, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Belgium, Qatar, Spain and Cameroon, as well as Mali and Trinidad. A variety of other campaign luminaries and FA officials - including Sir Bobby, Kelly, Wiseman, McGivan, Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker - have travelled around the globe to drum up support.

"It's very important to meet people face to face," a spokesman for 2006 campaign said, adding it was also very important that Banks was playing an integral part in campaigning. "We're very happy that he is giving a lot of active support," the spokesman said. "Obviously the government is very supportive."

The budget for the campaign - which will last until voting takes place a year in March - is pounds 9m, said the spokesman. He explained that pounds 3m was contributed by the FA, pounds 3m by Premier League clubs and pounds 3m by the Sports Council. It not only paid for all the travel expenses and entertaining, but for the huge array of other promotional work that has gone and will continue to go into persuading the 24 all-important men to opt for England.

He added that the high profile nature of the campaign team was necessary to give the bid gravitas, hence the Prime Minister's involvement in hosting several meetings with leading footballing statesmen in Downing Street and the active involvement of Banks, the two knights (Sirs Bobby and Geoff) and senior FA figures such as Kelly and Wiseman.

Given the week's events in Lancaster Gate, the campaign team might be forgiven for regretting the integral part the last two in the list have played in the 2006 campaign, but the spokesman said emphatically that that was not the case. "The way to persuade people to vote for you is to persuade them England is the best place for the World Cup," he said, and added that Kelly and Wiseman's contacts and standing in the world game had been invaluable.

It is hard to judge what impact Kelly's resignation and Wiseman's involvement in the gifts to Wales affair will have, if any, on the 2006 bid. It is also difficult to tell whether the expensive, extensive shuttle diplomacy of the campaign will pay dividends, even with all its political and ambassadorial backing. There is no better illustration of that point than the account of a senior South Korean FA official of a visit made by Banks, McGivan and other campaigners to Seoul in February.

Firstly the campaign team made a 2006 presentation to Korean football officials in the World Cup 2002 headquarters. "They were trying to explain why they wanted the World Cup," a senior Korean FA official said yesterday. Next, with the help of the British ambassador to South Korea, they arranged an intimate dinner in a plush Seoul restaurant with Dr Mong Chung, a Fifa vice-president and one of the 24 people who's support they need. Thirdly, since the visit - itself something not undertaken so far by any other bidder such as Germany or South Africa - they have regularly sent "PR material", said the official. Were the presentations in Seoul impressive? "I'm sorry but I can't remember exactly what they said," he admitted.

THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL SO FAR

How the England 2006 World Cup campaigners have lobbied around the globe

OCTOBER 1997

Sir Bobby Charlton, the England 2006 campaign team and the British Ambassador in Italy promote the bid by speaking to the international media at England's France 98 qualifier in Rome. Sir Bobby, Alec McGivan (campaign director), the Sports Minister Tony Banks and `FA top officials' travel to Costa Rica, Trinidad and the US, each of which are represented on the 24-man Fifa executive committee which will decide where the 2006 World Cup will be staged.

DECEMBER 1997

Sir Geoff Hurst and Sir Bobby travel with Glenn Hoddle to the France 98 draw in Marseilles to campaign for the England 2006 bid.

JANUARY 1998

The 2006 team travel to Football Expo in Singapore.

FEBRUARY 1998

Sir Bobby, McGivan, Banks and Wiseman travel to Japan, South Korea and Thailand, the latter two of which are represented on the Fifa executive committee.

MARCH 1998

The Fifa president, Dr Joao Havelange, meets the Prime Minister Tony Blair in Downing Street. Also present are a 2006 bid delegation including Banks, Kelly and Wiseman.

England 2006 campaign team travel to South America, where the Argentine president Carlos Menem and Julio Grondona, president of the Argentine FA and vice-president of Fifa, both say they are supporting England's bid.

APRIL 1998

Sir Bobby, Banks and McGivan fly to Qatar to meet His Highness The Amir of Qatar, the Fifa executive member Mohammed Bin Hammam.

The England 2006 team, including Gary Lineker, travel to the Stade de France in Paris to attend Soccerex 98, the international football conference.

MAY 1998

Wiseman and McGivan attend the Concacaf congress to present the 2006 bid. The England 2006 team, including Banks, hold a media briefing at the European Cup-Winners' Cup final in Stockholm.

JULY 1998

The British Ambassador in Paris, Sir Michael Jay, and Wiseman host a reception in the British Embassy in Paris to celebrate France 98 and network with Fifa executive committee members.

OCTOBER 1998

Blair invites the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, to 10 Downing Street to sell England's bid. The secretary of the Thai FA and Fifa executive member, Worawi Makudi, visits London to discuss England's bid and the establishment of closer links between the two associations with FA officials including Wiseman. An England 2006 delegation, including Banks, visits Spain.

NOVEMBER 1998

Sir Bobby, McGivan, Banks and Kelly travel to Cameroon and Mali, to meet, amongst others, the organisers of the 2002 African Nations Cup in Mali.

DECEMBER 1998

Sir Bobby and McGivan travel to Thailand to promote the bid.

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