Football: England campaign to host 2006 World Cup

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England has launched its bid to bring the World Cup home in 2006 after the triumph of Euro 96, both on and off the field, convinced the Football Association to rival Germany for the right to stage the tournament, last held in this country in 1966.

"It's the next logical step for us,"Graham Kelly, the FA chief executive, said yesterday. "Nobody can question any longer our ability to stage the biggest sporting events in the world."

Lennart Johansson, president of the governing body of European football, Uefa, impressed by "a new spirit of tolerance" in the last three weeks, met with Kelly yesterday to discuss England's candidature.

The first battle will be to persuade Germany, World Cup hosts in 1974, to step aside and concentrate instead on the European Championship in 2004.

"One of our earliest actions will be to speak to the German FA and advise them that we are entering the arena," Kelly said.

Uefa will not want a split European vote which could let in Africa or South America so they will try to broker the sort of compromise which in 1990 saw France take the 1998 World Cup while England hosted Euro 96.

With Belgium and the Netherlands hosting the next European Championship, and Japan and Korea awarded the 2002 World Cup, there has been much talk of a joint bid with Scotland or Wales, helped by National Lottery funds but Kelly ruled that out at this stage. "With all due respect to Scotland, I don't really want to go down that road."

There was the added boost yesterday of the Government promising its backing for the bid. Virginia Bottomley, the National Heritage Secretary, told the Commons that ministers would support an offer from the Football Association "in every way possible".