Football: Kelly's exit makes no difference, says Sir Bobby

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The Independent Online
SIR BOBBY CHARLTON yesterday said that the resignation of the Football Association chief executive, Graham Kelly, had not affected world governing body Fifa's attitude towards England's 2006 World Cup bid.

"Fifa executive committee members say this will not really affect England's chances of staging the World Cup," Charlton insisted in Bangkok, where he is promoting the bid at the Asian Games.

"It's just a small hiccup in our campaign for the World Cup," said the England 1966 World Cup winner. "It will not affect the work we do. The bid is England's not the English FA's."

Alec McGivan, the man leading the England bid, earlier described Kelly's resignation as a little "local difficulty" that should not derail the national campaign to bring soccer back home.

McGivan, in Bangkok with Charlton, said his team remained focused on winning the sport's big prize. "I don't think the current local difficulty will be of much importance to Fifa when when it makes its decision in March 2000, which is still 15 months away," he said. "I don't think Fifa care who is chairman or CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of an association."

England's campaigners are battling against rivals from South Africa, Germany and four other countries for the right to host the World Cup finals. But the resignation of Kelly was considered a blow for the campaign - even though the Prime Minister Tony Blair and other bid supporters denied it would have any effect.

Kelly resigned after a meeting of the FA's executive committee investigated a pounds 3.2 million loan made to the Football Association of Wales.

The loan was alleged to have been made on the understanding that Wales would back an attempt to put an Englishman, the FA chairman Keith Wiseman, on the powerful executive committee of world soccer's governing body.

McGivan, a former political campaign manager, said England should be represented on the Fifa committee but the bid team was happy to work with the committee whoever sat on it. "Certainly the English FA should have a powerful voice," he said. "We're the original footballing country. You only have to travel with Bobby Charlton to see that the interest is enormous. Our club football is followed all over the globe."

"With the greatest respect to Graham Kelly and Keith Wiseman, they know that this bid is much bigger than two individuals," McGivan added. "It's a nationwide attempt to bring the greatest sporting tournament in the world to England."