After weeks of bickering, infighting and enough back-stabbing to make Brutus blanch, yesterday marked the first day of the rest of the bid, or so hopes Andy Anson, chief executive of the team seeking to bring the 2018 World Cup finals to England.
Anson was at Wembley to accept the final submissions from 15 cities seeking to host matches and, after a series of high-profile problems, culminating in the resignation from the board of Sir Dave Richards, the chairman of the Premier League, he is desperate to "draw a line in the sand and move on".
"Am I frustrated at times? Yes, I am," said Anson. "We owe it to football fans in England to get on the front foot and get on with the bid. Clearly, there have been issues. But it's time to put all personal issues aside and unite behind the bid. This is a winnable bid."
Anson claims that, despite recent setbacks, the bid is in a "good place", as are, contrary to appearances, their dealings with the Premier League. "[Since Richards resigned] I've had a number of chats with Richard Scudamore [Anson's counterpart at the Premier League]. We are confident our relationship with the Premier League is very, very strong," insisted Manchester United's former commercial director.
The bid team now has until 16 December to sift through the contenders, ranging from the sure things of Manchester and London to the optimistic wannabes of Plymouth and Milton Keynes. Yesterday each city made its pitch – with the basic requirement of a 40,000-plus capacity stadium – backed by a variety of the sporting great and good. Newcastle fielded Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Jack Charlton and David Ginola, while Plymouth's star turn was 15-year-old Tom Daley.
"I have never heard a Frenchman speaking so passionately about English football," said Anson, who will make the final decision on whittling the 15 cities down to around 10 with 12 to 18 stadiums alongside Lord Mawhinney and Simon Johnson, the bid's chief operating officer.
Geographical spread will be an important consideration for the panel, which is likely to prove good news for Bristol. Among other issues to be resolved is Liverpool's bid, which has included Anfield as an "iconic fallback" should neither of the new stadiums come to pass, while the Olympic stadium in Stratford could complicate the London United submission if the organisers decide to reduce its capacity to 25,000 after the 2012 Games.
Fifa will make the final decision on the 2018 hosts in December next year.
Minimum capacity for an English stadium to be considered suitable of staging a World Cup game.