2018 bid wins key funding pledge

Government fast-tracks financial guarantees required to host World Cup
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The Independent Online

The sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe claims England's 2018 World Cup bid has regained its unity after the government signed off all the guarantees required by Fifa.

The government have signed financial guarantees of £300m for England's hosting of the tournament and made other commitments regarding security, visas and tax. The agreements have been signed several months ahead of the May deadline, and Sutcliffe said that was a sign that, after a period where the 2018 bid board was riven by disagreements and criticism, unity has returned to the campaign.

Sutcliffe said: "It is now united, and the guarantees combined with our offer of a £2.5m loan which is on the table if they want to pick it up, underlines that. I think the board moves were right and my concern now is that football will deliver us this bid, as they have to get the votes of the 24 Fifa executive committee members. Signing off the guarantees at this early stage puts the bid in good shape."

The guarantees have been agreed by all political parties and signed by prime minister Gordon Brown and other ministers from relevant departments. Sutcliffe added that it was important to have the commitments in place before the general election next year.

The minister said: "What's important to me is that we kept the pressure on and managed to get all the departments to agree very quickly.

"It does have all-party support for these are substantial costs for the future, but the World Cup would, of course, also bring huge economic benefits to this country.

"My view also was that we wanted this done before Christmas and certainly didn't want it to run into any problems with a general election when so much else would be happening."

Fifa oblige bidding nations to sign a confidentiality clause so the exact details of the guarantees are not being released. It is likely that the tax guarantee is similar to the deal the government agreed with Uefa in order to stage the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley, where foreign players will be exempt from being taxed on their tournament earnings.

The 2018 bid chairman, Lord Triesman, said it would be impossible to host the tournament without such commitments. He said: "The signing of the guarantees months in advance of the May 2010 deadline is a testament to the government's commitment to bringing the World Cup to England, in particular the sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe and his officials who have worked very hard to secure them so early.

"The guarantees underpin around £300m worth of financial commitment without which it would be impossible to host the tournament.

"This again demonstrates England's desire as a whole to meet and exceed Fifa's requirements and guarantees Fifa the most secure environment possible for the world's biggest sporting event in terms of security, financial, legal and commercial partner delivery."

Meanwhile, Sir Trevor Brooking is confident of the National Football Centre at Burton being resurrected and has been encouraged by the Football Association agreeing their television deal with ESPN.

Brooking, the FA's director of football development, said: "The design is currently in place. What we have to look at, from a funding point of view, is how we get on after agreeing a deal with ESPN. Ian Watmore, our chief executive, is really supportive of player development and the importance of coaching. I'm hoping that is something we'll be focusing on in the first few weeks of the year."

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