Blatter set for Downing Street invite

Prime Minister David Cameron intends to invite FIFA president Sepp Blatter to Downing Street later in the year following confirmation he will miss next week's visit from the World Cup inspection team due to a family holiday.

Although the news is bound to be seen by some as a sign that the new coalition Government lacks confidence in the bid to host the 2018 World Cup, Cameron has spoken to Blatter on the telephone to advise he would not be around and has left a video message for the inspection team.

Blatter is believed to have assured Cameron it would not have a negative effect on the bid.

Instead, the bid team, led by Chile FA president Harold Mayne-Nicholls, will be hosted by deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is in charge of national affairs during Cameron's two-week break.

"England 2018/22 is delighted to confirm that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt will welcome the FIFA inspection team to England next week to assess the country's 2018/22 Bid for the FIFA World Cup," said a statement released by the 2018 bid team.

"The Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to FIFA President Sepp Blatter yesterday to discuss the Government's plans for the visit.

"During the conversation the Prime Minister reiterated his personal, and the coalition Government's, full support for England's bid.

"He asked for his apologies to be passed on to the FIFA inspection team for his absence from the visit due to a long standing family holiday and said he was looking forward to welcoming President Blatter to Downing Street in the autumn.

"He has recorded a personal video message for the FIFA Inspection Team."

The precise itinerary for the inspection team has still to be finalised.

However, 2018 chief executive Andy Anson is keen to highlight all the stadiums involved in the bid and there will certainly be trips out of London, where it is envisaged the opening game, as well as the final, would be held.

England face opposition from combined bids by Spain and Portugal and Holland and Belgium, plus the United States.

But it is believed the major opposition will come from Russia, who have gained momentum since launching their bid last year.

The final decision will be made by the 22-man FIFA executive in Zurich on December 2.

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