The Football Association has gone on the offensive in an attempt to force the Government to deliver on their promise to support the World Cup 2018 bid.
The Government had been expected to provide £5m of the £15m bid budget but five months after the official launch the FA are yet to see a penny. Lord Triesman, the FA chairman, yesterday used the platform at the Leaders in Football Conference at Stamford Bridge to ask them to stump up.
Triesman said an independent study, commissioned from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and working to Treasury specifications, had indicated a successful bid would provide a £3.2bn uplift to the British economy. "If that return was offered to me I would say, 'invest'," he said.
The Government are yet to agree, despite the presence on the bid's committee board of sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe, and, in an unofficial capacity, former sports minister Lord Caborn, who is acting as the Prime Minister's representative. The delay runs counter to the pledge by Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, two years ago this month when he said the Government would do "everything in its power" to back any putative bid. At the official launch in May, he repeated the claim. "I want to assure everybody that the government will do everything it can so that we record a famous victory in this campaign," Brown said, adding: "I promise to make it my personal mission to gather support from around the world."
Triesman, a former Government minister, did recognise the economic climate had changed and "there is acute pressure on government departments" but stressed: "This investment will be repaid thousands of times over. It would be an amazing outcome for our economy."
The FA's need is more pressing because of their own dire economic situation following the collapse of Setanta, who had a joint £425m deal with ITV to screen the FA Cup and England's home internationals. Triesman revealed for the first time just how badly the organisation had been affected when he admitted: "Setanta's failure has made a significant difference to the cash available to the FA and to what we can afford. We need a flow of income to see through our programme and are working very hard to replace them with another broadcaster."
One of the casualties, he admitted, will be the massively overdue, badly needed, National Football Centre at Burton-upon-Trent, backed by former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson. The new chief executive, Ian Watmore, had hoped to bring the project out of mothballs, but, despite his support, Triesman confirmed it is back on hold. "We are keen to have it built, and agree it should happen," he added.
The FA have already spent more than £25m on Burton, and annually expends a seven-figure sum just maintaining the land. At the same conference on Wednesday the FA's former technical director Howard Wilkinson, the Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and Eriksson all said the project should proceed as a matter of urgency. Other programmes, from grassroots to training of referees and coaches, could be affected if the FA has to replace the planned Government contribution to the 2018 bid budget. "We have thoughts of what we would do in extremis," Triesman said.
The FA spent £10m on the failed 2006 bid but although their proposed 2018 budget is a 50 per cent increase it is well below some rivals, such as Australia, who have been given $30m (£18m) in government funds.
Triesman took the opportunity to counter the criticism of the bid made by Jack Warner, the Fifa executive committee member, on Wednesday by announcing the names of several notable bid ambassadors. Warner, who influences five of the committee's 24 votes, said the FA's bid lacked "stardust" and had "lightweight" representatives. This may be allayed by the addition of Ossie Ardiles, Gianfranco Zola, Kanu, Kolo Touré, Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Radebe, Salomon Kalou and Kenwyne Jones. The preponderance of African and South American players is a clear attempt to target those continents' votes as neither have a 2018 bid.
Triesman also took a swipe at rival contenders, notably Spain and Russia, by stressing the racial tolerance of English crowds. "Because of England's diversity and integration, players from every nation enjoy a home from home welcome. They are the best witnesses when they describe their enjoyment of playing in English grounds. They will help us take our message across the world and are able to point out, because we faced our demons in the past, that in England you can play your football without racial abuse and that's not true everywhere."