To most people assembling at Wembley yesterday afternoon, the World Cup means South Africa 2010. For a select few in the poshest seats, however, the tournament in eight years' time is about to assume paramount importance. The Football Association want to stage it in England for only the second time in history, and preparations for mounting a winning bid are about to enter a significant stage.
By the end of this month, the FA will confirm the names of the management board who will run the campaign, a list that, in contrast to the failed 2006 bid, is expected to be high on political and business experience; too high, according to the shadow sports minister, Hugh Robertson, who is already talking about wanting some of the Labour element sacked if there is a change of government.
Apart from the Conservative peer Lord Mawhinney, the chairman of the Football League, Manchester United's David Gill is the only football figure so far in the frame, althoughSir Keith Mills will bring the impressive qualification of having chaired the successful London Olympics bid. The FA's part-time chairman, Lord Triesman, has decided to chair the campaign himself.
A chief executive for the bid is due to be appointed in the first week of November and will be installed at new offices inside Wembley Stadium (to where the whole of the FA are due to move some time next year). Early next year the world governing body, Fifa, will make clear the criteriafor all bids, such as number of stadiums and their minimum capacities. They are also due to announce, in a radical departure, that the host country for 2022 will be named at the same time, April 2011, as the 2018 winner.
Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, said last year that every third World Cup should be held in Europe, which after South Africa and then Brazil (2014) means England's rivals for 2018 would be exclusively European, possibly including Russia, Spain and a joint bid from Belgium and Holland. Countries such as the US, Australia and China would be left to fight for 2022.
Winning the bid depends on securing a minimum of 13 of the 24 votes available from Fifa's executive committee. Uefa hold eight of those votes, twice as many as any other confederation, but it is clearly vital to win support from elsewhere in the world, which is one of many areas where the embarrassingly unsuccessful bid for the 2006 tournament fell down.
On that occasion, England received only five votes in the first round and only two (from the Scottish and New Zealand members) when up against Germany and South Africa in the next round. There was huge controversy in the final run-off when the New Zealander Charlie Dempsey abstained, allowing the Germans to pip South Africa 12-11. But in the event Germany put on a superb competition and South Africa, duly awarded 2010, have had four extra years to prepare, which it looks as though they will need.
England's campaign team at the time, headed by Alec McGiven and including Tony Banks, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Geoff Hurst and Garth Crooks, blamed hooliganism at Euro 2000 the month before the vote; a leaked Fifa report which criticised English facilities (Wembley was about to be knocked down); and a deal between South Africa and Brazil for the South American block vote. After revelations in a new book by David Davies that the FA were offered votes in exchange for money, Lord Triesman is particularly insistent that: "We'll run a very straight campaign."
Now he has added to criticism of the previous bid process, accusing it of complacency, and has promised the same mistakes will not be made again.
"We've examined it in detail," he said. "One of the things about 2006 is that those who ran and took part seemed to work with an idea in their heads that because we're the oldest home of football, it's simply our right to bring it home, that we're entitled to it and everybody should see that. And I think that had an impact on the style of the work that was done.
"In the midst of all that, people probably didn't pick up the political signals about where the voting blocks were and consequently misread that as well. I don't think anybody owes us anything in this life. You go out and you earn it. It really is as simple as that. And that's the biggest difference."
Part of the "earning" process was the friendly match England played last June in Trinidad and Tobago, where the local football bigwig is the Concacaf (North and Central America) president, Jack Warner. Triesman missed that trip but attended a centenary celebration dinner last month and said: "The relationships that came out of it are extremely strong."
It is expected that between 10 and 12 grounds will be needed for the finals. The 10 in England with a current capacity of more than 40,000 are Wembley, Arsenal, Chelsea, Aston Villa, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle and Sunderland, with Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday only just below.
Unusually, however, the FA are inviting cities rather than clubs to bid, so that places like Bristol – which might consider building a new stadium in the next decade – could come into contention.Reuse content